(TRENTON, N.J.) - The federal government has asked New Jersey not to release a state study - ordered as part of a government probe into allegations of racial profiling - that suggests black drivers speed more than other drivers.
The findings were due to be released in January, but the Justice Department asked they be withheld because of concerns about the methods used to gather the data.
Gov. James E. McGreevey said Thursday that he had known about the report for several weeks but had not read it.
The study was done as part of the government's probe into racial profiling by New Jersey troopers. The researchers wanted to determine if black and Hispanic drivers, who are stopped more often for speeding, actually speed more.
The Public Service Research Institute used specially designed radar gun cameras to photograph tens of thousands of drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike last spring. The photos were shown to teams of three evaluators who tried to determine each driver's race without knowing whether the driver was speeding.
The study, which has not been formally released, found black drivers went 15 mph or more over the speed limit much more than other drivers, and the racial gap widened at higher speed limits. It found little difference in 55 mph zones.
Mark Posner, a Justice Department lawyer who asked that the findings be withheld, said he feared the results had been skewed by factors such as glare on windshields, weather and camera placement.
``Based on the questions we have identified, it may well be that the results reported in the report are wrong or unreliable,'' Posner wrote in a letter to state officials which was obtained by The New York Times.
The researchers said the concerns were unfounded.
``We're quite confident in the validity of the report,'' Robert Voas, a researcher involved in the study, told the newspaper.
A 1998 shooting of four minority men by state troopers on the turnpike inflamed accusations that state police targeted minority motorists for searches. A year after the shooting, state officials admitted troopers practiced racial profiling.
The state then entered into a court agreement to prevent a lawsuit by the Justice Department, which ordered reforms including steps to monitor the race of motorists stopped by troopers.
Although the speeding study has not been released, word of it has trickled down to state troopers.
``People who are being stopped are being stopped because of the way they're operating their vehicles, not because of their race,'' said David Jones, vice president of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association.