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Putting the Red Light on Racially Motivated Traffic Stops

June 17th, 2013 No comments

By: Jay Patel

Blog Category: Racial Profiling & Traffic Stops

Putting the Red Light on Racially Motivated Traffic Stops

In the late 1990’s the State of New Jersey entered into a consent decree with the United States Department of Justice.[1] The basis: New Jersey State Troopers were using race as a means of discriminating among drivers stopped for traffic infractions.[2] The consent decree underscored a stark reality; police officers across the country were using race as a pretext to stop, and in many cases, harass minorities.[3] The question then becomes: How can we curb these flagrant abuses?

Several commentators have proposed suggestions which could be easily implemented and maintained.[4] The first proposal would establish internal police policies which would set forth standardized procedures that an officer would have to follow when conducting a traffic stop.[5] To ensure that these policies are followed, the author suggests financial awards or fines based on departmental adherence.[6] Another commentator has suggested that by either restricting or barring consent based searches race-centric stops will cease.[7] He would apply the Terry standard of reasonable suspicion for a stop and frisk as a prong to any motorist consent.[8] In short, law enforcement officers would need both the motorist’s consent and reasonable suspicion that illegal contraband was present before conducting a search.[9] The other plausible scenario would render ineffective a citizen’s consent to search and effectively bar the police from searching a motor vehicle.[10]

Ideally we would like to reside in a society where racial profiling does not exist; however, that is not the reality. Therefore, it is important that we consider one or many of the proffered solutions as a means to end racial profiling.


[1]  Noah Kupferberg, TRANSPARENCY: A NEW ROLE FOR POLICE CONSENT DECREES, 42 Colum. J. L. & Soc. Probs. 129,139 (2008).

[2]  Id.

[3] Id.  at 134 (detailing the United State Department of Justice’s investigation and subsequent consent decree with the City of Los Angeles); See also  David A. Harris, ESSAY: “DRIVING WHILE BLACK” AND ALL OTHER TRAFFIC OFFENSES: THE SUPREME COURT AND PRETEXTUAL TRAFFIC STOPS, 87 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 544, 561-69 (1997) (detailing several disturbing race-based traffic stops).

[4]  Id. at 576-79; See also, Timothy P. O’Neil, Article: Vagrants in Volvos: Ending Pretextual Traffic Stops and Consent Searches of Vehicles in Illinois, 40 Loy. U. Chi. L.J. 745, 772-779. (2009).

[5] Harris, supra, note 3 at 576-79.

[6] Id. at 579.

[7]  O’Neil, supra, note 4 at 774-75.

[8]  Id. at 773.

[9]  Id. at 778-79.

[10]  Id. at 778.

Pension funds sell holdings tied to gun manufacturers

June 10th, 2013 No comments

By: Jamilah Espinosa

Blog Category: The Economics of Gun Control

Pension funds sell holdings tied to gun manufacturers

Following the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut where twenty children and six adults were killed by a gunman at an elementary school, the debate on gun control increased. [1] Amid the debate, it was discovered that many U.S. teacher and public employee retirement funds had investments in gun manufacturers. [2] In response to the tragedy and debate, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), which is the second-biggest in the United States,  sold it’s stocks that were invested in gun manufacturing companies. [3] In January 2013, the CalSTRS sold $2.9 million of Smith and Wesson Holding Corporation and Sturm, Ruger, and Co. stocks that it held. [4] The New York City Teachers’ Retirement System, one of the largest pension funds in the country, followed suit in February 2013, and sold $13.5 million in investments it had in five manufacturing gun companies. [5] The New York City Teachers’ Retirement System attributed the decision to the school shooting in Newtown, CT. [6]

Conversely, the New York City Police Pension decided this March not to sell the approximate $10 million in investments it has in gun-related holdings. [7] The President of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association explained that the pension board had not found that the gun manufacturers had done anything improper regarding the Newtown tragedy and ultimately the primary responsibility of the board is to make reliable investments. [8] It is likely that the New York City Police Pension stood firm in retaining their gun-related holdings because of the financial success of the stocks. The New York City Teachers’ Retirement System sold its holdings, but kept the profits from the record gun sales of the last two years. [9] The sale of the gun-related holdings will have significant financial impacts on the pension funds, for example if the New York Teachers’ Retirement System purchased stocks of Smith and Wesson two years ago, the return on the investment would have been 200 percent. [10] It is still questionable whether other pension and mutual funds will follow suit in divesting their gun-related holdings.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

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[1] Hilary Russ, NYC teacher pension fund pulls money from gun makers, Feb. 15, 2013, available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/15/us-usa-guns-nyc-pension-idUSBRE91E0QV20130215.

[2] Id.

[3] Martin Z. Braun, New York City’s Police Pension Fund Won’t Sell Gun Holdings, Bloomberg, Mar. 7, 2013, available at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-06/new-york-city-s-police-pension-fund-won-t-divest-gun-holdings.html.

[4] Id.

[5]  Russ, supra note 1.

[6] Id.

[7] Martin, supra note 3.

[8] Id.

[9] Michal Conger, NYC teacher pension fund sells stock in gun makers, but keeps the profits, The Examiner, Feb. 15, 2013, available at http://washingtonexaminer.com/nyc-teacher-pension-fund-sells-stock-in-gun-makers-but-keeps-the-profits/article/2521700.

[10] Id.

 

 

 

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Low-Income Households Get Relief From Hurricane Sandy

June 3rd, 2013 No comments

By *Jennifer Rutter

Blog Topic: Housing/Entitlement Programs

Low-Income Households Get Relief From Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy produced devastating affects on hundreds of thousands of people, but its aftermath has had a greater impact on low-income households.  Of the Sandy-related federal aid claims made by New York and New Jersey households, 43% had an income less than $30k while 68% of renters that made FEMA claims were low-income.[1]

Fortunately, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has acted quickly and released the first round of the $16 billion in Community Development Block Grant funding from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 designed to restore housing and revitalize the economy in the regions most impacted by Hurricane Sandy.[2]

New Jersey’s Housing Voucher Program, funded by HUD, is providing displaced low-income households with vouchers to assist people in obtaining a permanent residence, which has been especially hard for renters.[3]  Homeowners in New Jersey may also be eligible for a mortgage forgiveness if they are unemployed or underemployed.[4]

Additionally, affected homeowners with Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac mortgages that are facing foreclosure have been given an additional 90 days and the FHA has agreed not to evict persons in impacted areas through April 30, 2013.[5]

Although income levels made no difference to Hurricane Sandy’s path, the government has recognized the higher necessity among the impacted low-income households and acted accordingly.

 

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

 

Whether or not racial profiling in traffic stops is a thing of the past

May 27th, 2013 No comments

By: *Marthe Ngwashi

Blog Topic: Racial Profiling & Traffic Stops

Whether or not racial profiling in traffic stops is a thing of the past.

 

Could racial profiling in traffic stops be an issue of the past? While difficult to determine whether discrimination or other factors dictate a traffic stop, people of color, as research indicates, continue to be stopped more often than whites.[1] For a traffic stop, the purpose of profiling based on race remains unsubstantiated, while the length and search rate for stops between a person of color and a similarly situated white driver may be no different at all.[2] In fact, one study noted that a higher level of discrimination on an officer’s part, does not even take place prior to a stop.[3] Analytically though, something likely more important than the stop itself is the character of each stop and the subsequent treatment of the individual(s) detained.[4]

All things considered, research verifies that subjectivity plays a role in an officer’s decision to make a stop.[5] As such, any attempts to discontinue a practice involving racial bias will require commitment and persistence on a police chief’s part and patience from the public. It is unknown whether the bias stems from the culture within a police department or merely a small group of problem officers.[6] As a result, it is evident that racial profiling in traffic stops is not an issue of the past.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

 


*Marthe Ngwashi is a staff member on Widener’s Journal of Law, Economics & Race. To learn more about Marthe, click here to view her page.

[1] Racial Profiling and Traffic Stops, National Institute of Justice (Jan 10, 2013), http://www.nij.gov/topics/law-enforcement/legitimacy/traffic-stops.htm#noteReferrer1

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

How much are you willing to pay in exchange for gun law reformation?

May 20th, 2013 No comments

By: *Jaclyn Crittenden

Blog Topic: The Economics of Gun Control

How much are you willing to pay in exchange for gun law reformation?

While there are many ways to change gun control laws, I will summarize one of the proposal, that every gun purchaser has gun insurance.[1]  The problem with this method is that just like any other kind of insurance, compliance is unenforceable because it can easily be cancelled or may lapse right after the sale.

Additionally, without people having insurance, this will mean that fewer guns will be sold. As a result, this will cause prices and sales taxes to increase for guns, licenses, ammunition, magazines, and other accessories. Potential excessive rates and taxes would eventually make it so only wealthy people could afford guns.[2]  Wealthy people are generally law-abiding citizens as they have assets that can be seized and paychecks that can be garnished.

The legal firearm market would be negatively affected by increases in costs because it creates more demand for the illegal black-market, straw purchases, and gun thefts.[3]  For example, judgment proof felons convicted of gun-related crimes can illegally buy guns at a lower price, thus gaining access to firearms while avoiding insurance requirements and the related sales tax.[4]

Middle-class, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens end up bearing an average of $100 billion for every gun purchase under this proposed provision; I agree that something must be done, however, not by means that will financially burden the majority of citizens. That is just not the way to do it![5]

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

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*Jaclyn Crittenden is a staff member on the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. To learn more about Jaclyn, click here to visit her page.

[1]http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/28/the-economics-of-gun-control/

[2]http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/12/28/should-people-be-forced-to-buy-liability-insurance-for-their-guns.html

[3]Shapiro RJ, Hassett KA, The Economic Benefits of Reducing Violent Crime: A case Study of 8 American Cities, Center for American Progress, Washington, DC, June 2012

[4]Supra note 2.

[5]Supra note 3.

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Liability Insurance for gun purchases

May 20th, 2013 No comments

By: Candace Embry

Blog Category: The Economics of Gun Control

Liability Insurance for gun purchases

With the latest gun-related tragedy in Newtown, CT, gun control has resurfaced as a topic of conversation and many Americans are ripe for change. Now that gun violence has affected our budding youth, “there is a moral price to be paid for inaction.”[1]  So, let’s get to work America!

John Wasik of Forbes magazine describes President Obama’s solutions of banning assault weapons, multiple-ammo clips, and gun-show sales as “low-hanging fruit approaches.”[2]  The President also proposed increased funding for law enforcement and providing easier access to mental health care.[3]  Will any of these really work? John Wasick says, “No.”

Instead, Wasik suggests an approach focused on forcing gun owners and sellers to take on the financial burden that gun-ownership poses to all Americans. Wasik argues that gun owners should bear the associated risks and costs through the mandated purchase of liability insurance.[4]  Gun violence is harmful not only to one’s physical well being, but also to our economy. When a household acquires a gun, the imposed costs on society are between $100 and $1,800 per year.[5]  However, the impact in the aggregate is actually much greater. The Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research reported that gun violence impacts quality of life, emotional trauma, and even property values.[6]  Considering these broader effects, gun violence resulted in a $100 billion cost to society in 1998.[7]  These are the costs for which gun owners and sellers should be held liable.

Wasik’s plan would work much like car, homeowners, or health insurance plans requiring gun owners to shop for and secure a liability insurance policy prior to even making the purchase. Rates would be determined by actuaries’ calculations of risk based on factors like age, residency, history of mental illness, and the type of gun. Those most at risk to commit a gun crime would be quoted higher rates, and, ideally, this will create an economic disincentive and make gun-ownership too expensive for those who pose the greatest risks to society. This is not the first time the idea has come up. In fact, a similar law was proposed in the Illinois legislature in 2009, but it was quickly defeated.[8]

While insurance is not a solution to all problems presented by gun violence in America, if combined with the President’s suggested changes, mandatory insurance policies could actually fund greater protections to prevent more tragedies like the one in Newtown, CT. Most importantly, Wasik posits this plan would likely survive a second amendment challenge.

So, what’s the verdict? Will we sacrifice morality for another round of inaction? Or will we challenge gun owners to put their money where their guns are?

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.
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*Candace Embry is the 2013-2014 Articles Editor (DE) on the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race Journal. To learn more about Candace, click here to visit her page.
[1] John Christoffersen, Joe Biden: Gun Control Views Have Changed Since Newtown, HUFFINGTON POST (Feb. 21, 2013, 6:48 PM), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/21/joe-biden-gun-control_n_2735716.html.
[2] John Wasik, Newtown’s New Reality: Using Liability Insurance to Reduce Gun Deaths, FORBES (Dec. 17, 2012, 7:34 PM), http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnwasik/2012/12/17/newtowns-new-reality-using-liability-insurance-to-reduce-gun-deaths.
[3] Now is the Time to do Something about Gun Violence, THE WHITE HOUSE, http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/preventing-gun-violence#what-we-can-do.
[4] Wasik, supra note 2.
[5] Brad Plumer, The Economics of Gun Control, THE WASHINGTON POST (Dec. 28, 2012), http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/28/the-economics-of-gun-controlSee generally Philip Cook & Jens Ludwig, The Social Costs of Gun Ownership, 90 JOURNAL OF PUB. ECON. 379-91 (2006) available at http://home.uchicago.edu/~ludwigj/papers/JPubE_guns_2006FINAL.pdf.
[6] The Case for Gun Policy Reforms in America, JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR GUN POLICY AND RESEARCH (Oct. 2012), http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and-research/publications/WhitePaper102512_CGPR.pdf
[7] Id.
[8] Wasik, supra note 2.

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