Driving While Brown

My wife and I love to pick up a free Palo Alto Daily Post and go through the police blotter. Unfortunately, the Post doesn’t publish the blotter online, so you have to get a paper edition to check it out.

The paper makes an art of finding the funniest police reports — our favorite was when police were called to investigate a report that a baby had been dumped in a trash can at the Walmart. Police determined the baby was a burrito.

There is an aspect of the blotter that is reliably disturbing, however, and I’m never sure if the Post publishes it intentionally or not. There is line after line of people with hispanic-sounding names who have been pulled over and cited or arrested on suspended licenses or outstanding warrants or other non-moving offenses.

From the outside, it sure looks like these people are being pulled over for driving while brown.

Police have a lot of discretion in determining who to stop. I imagine a police officer can usually find a legitimate reason to stop any given vehicle that drives by.

One hope for the future of self-driving cars is that this will become a lot more rare. If vehicles are programmed by the manufacturer to obey all traffic laws, there will still be reasons to pull over vehicles, but it will be harder to justify.

And hopefully driving while brown will become a crime of the past.

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