GREENSBORO, N.C. -- After 15 months of not stopping drivers who had a broken tail light or missing mirror, Greensboro Police Chief Wayne Scott says he is returning that power to officers on Feb. 11.
"It's a good time for us to go ahead and move forward, go back and follow the rules of state law and let these many things we've instituted over the last year take effect," Scott said.
Scott suspended stops for minor equipment violations after an October 2015 New York Times article claimed black drivers were pulled over twice as often as white drivers.
"The numbers were concerning and you know we've said that from the get go, we don't argue the numbers, but the question is really how you get to the numbers," Scott said.
An independent study conducted by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and North Carolina A&T State University eventually found there was no evidence supporting the idea that racism was the reason for racial disparities in traffic stops in Greensboro.
Scott says he was also concerned about the perception people in the community had of officers and of the department overall.
"There were members of our community that perceived that stopping for these very simple violations weren't the best thing for our community," Scott said.
Since the traffic stops were suspended every Greensboro Police Officer has gone through procedural justice training and several other day-to-day changes have also been implemented.
"We changed policies around consent searches and started recording all of our data," Scott said. All searches now must have written or video recorded consent from the party involved. Officers are also required to fill our a traffic stop data information sheet after every traffic stop.
Scott says his goal was to understand what was happening at traffic stops and why.
"I think it gave us a moment of pause as an organization to understand, one, what the facts were revealing, but, just as importantly, what the perceptions were existing out there and how we needed to address both," he said.
Scott says he is comfortable resuming traffic stops for equipment violations now that the department has new checks and balances in place.
Greensboro is also facing an increase in violent crime. In the last two years, violent crime has gone up 53 percent compared to 2014. Scott says traffic stops are a way that officers can fight and prevent crime.
"We are hearing in our communities that are being victimized that [they] want to see more of a police presence and it allows us not only to be in that area but to be seen as doing work to interact to have that conversation," he said.
The chief also said suspending those traffic stops allowed the department to put more of a focus on neighborhood-oriented policing, which involves more on-foot patrols, more community outreach and more officer-to-citizen interaction on a positive level.