Road Work: Racial Profiling and Drug Interdiction on the Highway

Hypocrisy about race is hardly new in America, but the content changes. Recently the spotlight has been on racial profiling. The story of Colonel Carl Williams of the New Jersey State Police is a wellknown example. On Sunday, February 28, 1999, the Newark Star Ledger published a lengthy interview with Williams in which he talked about race and drugs: “Today . . . the drug problem is cocaine or marijuana. It is most likely a minority group that’s involved with that. ” Williams condemned racial profiling – “As far as racial profiling is concerned, that is absolutely not right. It never has been condoned in the State Police and it never will be condoned in the State Police” – but he said that the illegal drug trade is ethnically balkanized: “If you’re looking at the methamphetamine market, that seems to be controlled by motorcycle gangs, which are basically predominantly white. If you’re looking at heroin and stuff like that, your involvement there is more or less Jamaicans.” Hours later, still on Sunday, Governor Christine Todd Whitman fired Williams from his job as superintendent of the New Jersey State Police because “his comments . . . are inconsistent with our efforts to enhance public confidence in the State Poiice.” Six months later Colonel Williams sued the state for damages, arguing (among other claims) that his statements about race and drugs reflected well-known facts, and pointing out that the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy website told visitors that in Trenton, New Jersey, “crack dealers are predominantly African-American males,” powder cocaine dealers are “predominantly Latino,” heroin traffickers are “mostly Latinos,” and the marijuana market is “controlled by Jamaicans.”