Greensboro PD stops minorities disproportionately, says report

Annie Fullwood, Staff Writer

November 13, 2015

Flashing lights in your rear view mirror. The sudden rush of frustration and anxiety.

Many drivers have been stopped by a police officer, however new data suggests that black drivers have more reason to be cautious.

In 2014, a vehicle stops summary released by the state of Missouri listed some alarming facts. While 78.3 percent of vehicles stopped were manned by white drivers, black drivers were still 1.75 times more likely to be pulled over than white drivers.

This means that out of every four drivers stopped in Missouri, three were black.

The summary also explained that while black drivers were 73 percent more likely to be searched than whites, they were actually less likely to possess any contraband.

This racial disparity is alarming, especially for Missouri, home to the now-infamous Michael Brown case in Ferguson. Missouri police departments still face retaliation despite State Attorney General Chris Koster’s protests.

“While statistical disproportion does not prove that law enforcement officers are making vehicle stops based on the perceived race or ethnicity of the driver, the compilation and analysis of data provides law enforcement, legislators and the public with a starting point,” said Koster in his analysis of the report.

This trend of racial bias is not only an issue in Missouri, but is prevalent in the rest of the nation, including Greensboro.

A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study conducted by Professor of Political Science Frank R. Baumgartner and two graduate students revealed that racial differences in traffic stops are more extreme in North Carolina than in Missouri. Baumgartner studied 13 million traffic stops reported over ten years.

From 2000 to 2011, black drivers were 77 percent more likely to be searched than white drivers in North Carolina. Hispanic drivers were almost 100 percent more likely.

The data is reflected in the public opinion towards police and local government in Greensboro. Black Lives Matter demonstrations within the city have been building since Brown’s death in 2014.

More recently, in January 2015, a gathering at the Glenwood Apartments in downtown Greensboro addressed discontent with the Greensboro Police Department.

“There needs to be complete citizen review,” said Brian Watkins, an attendee at the protest as reported by the News and Record. “The investigation process when police do something wrong is flawed.

“Citizens need to have subpoena power, and the city shouldn’t have any control over the process.”

With the appointment of new Greensboro police chief, Wayne Scott, there is still the chance of improvement. Citizens have remained critical however, since Scott was promoted to chief in March 2015.

“I obviously have critics, I had critics here today,” said Scott at the press conference announcing his promotion as reported by WFDD Greensboro. “But I will tell you I have a lot of people that were in support of me as well.

“I’m not going to let the critics stop me. I’m actually going to engage each and every one of them.  I believe that part of building bridges in not giving up.”

Building bridges between the police and non-white communities may take more than words. Greensboro citizens and Guilford students are speaking out after a history of abused trust and police misconduct.

“My son was unfairly pulled over when he was twenty-three,” said CCE junior DeAnn Castro. “Now it makes him angry when he sees Greensboro cops. They have a tendency to harass any African American males. Any.

“There are some good officers and there are some bad. But right now it seems that the bad is outweighing the good. In this season of life, it seems that we are regressing instead of progressing.”

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