What do you get when you combine three
years, $90,000 and a consulting firm? Unfortunately, not very
In 2000, the Ann Arbor City Council hired Lamberth Consulting, a
private company, to conduct research to determine whether the Ann
Arbor Police Department pulls over drivers based on their race.
This move was prompted by the numerous complaints the City Council
received three years ago charging the AAPD with racially profiling
drivers. As a result, Lamberth Consulting collected data from the
AAPD — such as whether the people they stopped at certain
lights were black or white.
Lamberth designed a scale to determine whether the police have
been practicing racial profiling. The odds ratio was based on a 1.0
to 2.0 scale. A rating of greater than 1.5 means that racial
profiling is prevalent; a rating of less than 1.5 indicates it is
not prevalent. Three stoplight locations in the city received a
rating of 1.5 or greater, meaning a black driver is more likely to
be stopped than a white driver. Overall, the AAPD received an odds
ratio of 1.5, which signifies that black drivers are no more likely
to be stopped than white drivers.
In relative terms, this doesn’t mean very much because
Lamberth did not conduct a thorough study worth the $90,000.
Because police had only collected data on blacks and whites, the
company excluded the large number of Ann Arbor residents who do not
fit neatly into the black-white division. There was no mention of
racial profiling claims against Arab-Americans, Hispanics or
After all the time and money spent on this study, it seems
peculiar that so little information was published. Lamberth
overlooked the citizens making complaints against the AAPD.
Lamberth also did not release data on what happened after police
pulled over drivers. It is possible that minorities receive more
tickets than whites, even if they are pulled over at the same rate.
All of this information is crucial in determining whether or not
racial profiling is occurring. These omissions make it clear the
Lamberth study was a waste of money.
Instead of being upset by the scarcity of information presented,
Ann Arbor City Councilwoman Wendy Wood took the stance that the
research was conclusive and that “overall” the police
department is doing a good job. It is irresponsible to make such a
claim; ample evidence exists to prove Lamberth’s research is
seriously flawed. The study, which took three years, was not only
inconclusive, but flawed. In a diverse city such as Ann Arbor, no
racial profiling should be acceptable, and a two-race study fails
to address the various forms of profiling that can occur.
This issue is too important to be swept under the rug. This
issue must be investigated more thoroughly. A city like Ann Arbor
can not afford to waste both time and money on worthless