Black, white traffic stop disparity in Greensboro evens out with policy change

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- You can call it a stop gap measure but in the short-term it seems to be working.

The Greensboro City Council got an update on the police department’s new policy of refraining from certain traffic stops that’s been in place since late October. The move was made to address concerns over state data that showed a 2:1 ratio of black drivers being pulled over compared to white drivers and a 4:1 of blacks being searched by police compared to whites.

“On one hand, the data is as we expected,” said Chief Wayne Scott. “The number of total traffic stops has declined and the gap in racial disparity in stops has narrowed.”

According to the Greensboro Police Department, the total number of stops since the policy change declined by 32 percent compared to the same period last year and stops for vehicle equipment violations decreased by 88 percent.

Between Nov. 11 and Dec. 10, officers throughout the city conducted 1,157 traffic stops. Black motorists were stopped 566 times, compared to whites who pulled over in 10 less instances. Historically, traffic stops for vehicle equipment infarctions accounted for approximately 12 percent of all traffic stops. This type of stop also accounts for the largest disparity between black and white motorists.

Scott said while the numbers are encouraging it’s still working to determine a reason for the pre-original disparity.

“On the other hand, we still need to determine is the root cause -- or causes -- of the disparity,” Scott said. “The numbers tell us only what happened. The numbers don’t tell us why it happened.”

Although the preliminary numbers show that the racial disparity in traffic stops across the city has narrowed, a closer look at the data points out some trends that deserve further scrutiny.

For instance, the time of day and locations of the traffic stops result in racial disparities in the data.

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