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Maine gov. misses mark on drug dealers' race

| Monday, Sept. 5, 2016, 9:42 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — No law enforcement statistics even come close to backing up Republican Gov. Paul LePage's assertion blacks and Hispanics account for “90-plus percent” of heroin trafficking arrests in his state.

LePage, who previously told the Portland NAACP chapter to “kiss my butt” and blamed out-of-state drug dealers for impregnating “young white” girls, sparked another racial uproar when he said Aug. 24 that data he'd collected indicate out-of-state blacks and Hispanics accounted for “90-plus percent” of heroin trafficking arrests in Maine.

FBI data contradict LePage's assertion, and a criminologist called the governor's data “laughable.”

Meanwhile, members of the black community in Maine, the whitest state, fear LePage's comments strengthen racial stereotypes and tacitly approve of racial profiling.

“I think this fear-mongering and these us-against-them kind of statements do not advance the community conversation, do not address the real issue of drug abuse,” said the Rev. Kenneth I. Lewis Jr., pastor at the Green Memorial A.M.E. Church, Maine's oldest African-American congregation, in Portland.

The Maine Department of Public Safety doesn't include race when compiling and analyzing crime data. And the most recent crime data from the FBI suggest the governor's claim doesn't pass muster.

The FBI data show that blacks accounted for 14 percent of a total of 1,211 drug sale and manufacturing arrests and 7.4 percent of 5,791 total drug arrests in Maine in 2014, the most recent numbers available.

Broken down by type of offense, the data showed that blacks accounted for 36 percent of arrests for selling or manufacturing cocaine, opium and their derivatives and 26 percent when synthetic narcotics including most prescription narcotics were included in the tally. The FBI doesn't include a category for Hispanics in its statistics.

Far from “90-plus percent,” the FBI figures could reflect even higher numbers of black offenders than reality because of small sample size, racial profiling and other factors, said Jack McDevitt, director of Northeastern University's Institute on Race and Justice in Boston.

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