Blacks still targeted by traffic stops in NC

| April 26, 2015

Cash Michaelsby Cash Michaels, Editor, The Carolinian, April 26, 2015.

In the aftermath of the recent fatal police shooting of a black motorist in North Charleston, S.C. comes a new study from a UNC-Chapel Hill researcher that conclusively documents how, for 12 years, North Carolina law enforcement have targeted African-American drivers disproportionately across this state in comparison to white drivers.

The author of the report tells The Carolinian that the numbers are increasing.

Titled “Summary of Black-White Differences in Traffic Stops and Searches” the study, produced by Frank R. Baumgartner, Distinguished Professor of Political Science in UNC – Chapel Hill’s Political Science Dept. along with two graduate students, began in 2011 and was presented to a state task force.

That initial report found that blacks across the state were 77 percent more likely to be stopped and searched by law enforcement than whites. Amazingly, prior to that report, while the NC Dept. of Justice and state Attorney General’s Office had been dutifully been collecting tons of data on traffic stops, as mandated by law in 1999 (the Highway Patrol began the practice in January 2000, followed by local police departments in 2002), no analysis had ever been done until Prof. Baumgartner had approached state officials for permission and cooperation in doing so.

“And then we decided that we needed to look city-by-city at police agencies one at a time, so we’ve been rolling out a series of reports one city at a time,” Prof. Baumgartner says. “And we’re also looking at Hispanic – white comparisons, because that’s a different pattern.”

Based on the numbers in Baumgartner’s studies, every North Carolina city from which he was able to glean statistics from (minimum populations 10,000), the following is clear – when it comes to traffic stops, blacks are disproportionately searched more than whites, young black males are especially targeted more than young white males, but black females, while searched more than white women, are dramatically less likely to be pulled over.

Baumgartner says the reports are important because they document how the racial disparity further erodes the relationship between African-Americans and law enforcement, and could help fuel the need for better discussions. It needs to happen, he says, because disparities are increasing.

Baumgartner says despite the increasing numbers, he doesn’t know why.

In Raleigh during that period, out of over 719,000 traffic stops, African-American drivers had a 62 percent more likelihood of being stopped and searched than whites. For black male drivers, they were over 125 percent more likely than white male drivers. Black female drivers – 62 percent over white females.

In Wilmington, out of almost 143,000 traffic stops by officers in the port city, black drivers, according to the UNC study, had a rate of search 134 percent higher than whites – the second largest racial disparity statewide recorded by the study (Jacksonville had the highest at 174 percent) – and for black males it was even greater – 143 percent higher than comparable white male drivers. For black female motorists, the likelihood of a search by a police officer was 24 percent greater than white females.

Charlotte, out of more than 1.3 million traffic stops between 2002 and 2013, the study shows that the search rate for blacks is double that of whites, with black males at 136 percent more than white males, and black females just 13 percent more than their white counterparts.

And in Durham, the first city to receive the study’s scrutiny and where blacks comprise just 39 percent of the county population per the US Census 2013 figures, based on over 239,000 traffic stops over the 13-year period, African-Americans in Durham “have a 105 percent greater likelihood of being searched than whites…,” and are “…57 percent of those stopped overall (whites were 39 percent), but their numbers exceed the average for investigations…regulatory, seat belt and equipment issues,” the report on Durham says. The study continues that in Durham, the traffic stops by law enforcement “…appear to be more discretionary, as compared to violations such as speeding or driving while impaired, where an officer may have a clear visual cue that the behavior merits investigation.”

The result is that those who happen to live in areas deemed “high crime” are more likely to get pulled over. In the overwhelming number of these cases, the black drivers have committed no crime, Baumgartner says.

The reports overall also pinpoint which officers statistically are targeting the most black drivers per police agency. Their names are not revealed, but they are identified by a reference number, and Prof. Baumgartner says the respective police chiefs know who they are, and can address them specifically when needed.

Category: NC Stateline, SPIN Blog

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Norm Kelly says:

    Won’t waste my time reading this post. Another opportunity for someone to separate people based on SKIN COLOR. Probably authored by a kindly, loving, liberal who claims, like all libs, that they are color blind when it comes to skin.
    But the question remains, cuz I doubt it was answered in the post. Is it JUST POSSIBLE that blacks aren’t targeted so much as blacks are breaking driving laws more frequently? When I witness a black driver speeding by a considerable margin in a school zone, I wonder if they would be ticketed at all just so the stats are kept in line. Not ticketing this speeding driver would help keep some stat, somewhere, from skewing against blacks. But that doesn’t mean the driver was targeted IF they were to be stopped and ticketed. And if someone is supposed to track stats for ticketing, does that mean that more blacks will be given a simple verbal warning while non-blacks would be ticketed under the same circumstances, again to keep the stats looking good?
    Isn’t the purpose of traffic law enforcement supposed to be to enforce traffic law? Shouldn’t it NOT matter the race of the person being stopped? How many times is it possible to identify a driver BEFORE the stop is made? Is the author trying to claim that if I get stopped it’s HIGHLY likely that I’ll get a warning, but if a black were stopped by the same officer for the same reason in the same place, that black driver WOULD be given a ticket? I’d like to see THAT proven!
    Blah, blah, blah from another lib who’s main concern, again, is simply skin color. Useful info? Doubtful. Kinda like when the occupier in chief speaks; almost universally a waste of time to listen to!
    When will lib stop separating people based on skin color? When will the people who claim to NOT be racist (libs!) stop basing everything on race? When will those who claim to be color-blind actually start being color-blind? Does everything with libs revolve around skin color? (trick question: answer is a definitive yes!)

  2. Richard L Bunce says:

    So government is targeting a group of people for selective treatment… government does this all the time with many groups… and all are reprehensible and should be stopped by removing the power of the government to engage in this activity.