Sunday, October 25, 2015

Just Do What The Officer Says

The NY Times takes a look at traffic stops in North Carolina and finds -- surprise! -- police pull over black drivers far more often even when the rates of finding something illegal are higher with white drivers.

Documenting racial profiling in police work is devilishly difficult, because a multitude of factors — including elevated violent crime rates in many black neighborhoods — makes it hard to tease out evidence of bias from other influences. But an analysis by The New York Times of tens of thousands of traffic stops and years of arrest data in this racially mixed city of 280,000 uncovered wide racial differences in measure after measure of police conduct.

Those same disparities were found across North Carolina, the state that collects the most detailed data on traffic stops. And at least some of them showed up in the six other states that collect comprehensive traffic-stop statistics.

Here in North Carolina’s third-largest city, officers pulled over African-American drivers for traffic violations at a rate far out of proportion with their share of the local driving population. They used their discretion to search black drivers or their cars more than twice as often as white motorists — even though they found drugs and weapons significantly more often when the driver was white.

Officers were more likely to stop black drivers for no discernible reason. And they were more likely to use force if the driver was black, even when they did not encounter physical resistance.
We know this happens, but finding evidence of this time and time again, in city after city, county after county, state after state, just makes it clear that this is systemic, national racism that will require a national fix to resolve.

In Greensboro, which is 41 percent black, traffic stops help feed the stream of minor charges that draw a mostly African-American crowd of defendants to the county courthouse on weekday mornings. National surveys show that blacks and whites use marijuana at virtually the same rate, but black residents here are charged with the sole offense of possession of minor amounts of marijuana five times as often as white residents are.

And more than four times as many blacks as whites are arrested on the sole charge of resisting, obstructing or delaying an officer, an offense so borderline that some North Carolina police chiefs discourage its use unless more serious crimes are also involved.

This has been a problem for years now, but now that it has national attention, it's starting to get noticed.  That's a start, and some cities and states are making changes, but again this is nationwide, any real solutions must also be national.

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