GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Police Chief Wayne Scott issued a special order to the Greensboro Police Department on Tuesday temporarily suspending patrol officers from conducting traffic stops based solely on violations related to vehicle equipment infractions.
According to Greensboro police, the order follows a lengthy review of traffic stop data that shows disparities based on race for certain types of stops and the actions resulting from them.
In general, vehicle equipment infractions include those items normally checked by the state during annual safety inspections.
“These types of stops are clearly an area of concern,” Scott said. “On its face, the data shows that racial disparities in traffic stops do exist. However, the numbers alone cannot possibly tell us the reasons for these differences. While we work on getting a better understanding of this complex issue, I believe it’s best to focus our efforts on engaging with our public in a way that is more meaningful.”
Recently, as part of the department’s implementation of Neighborhood Oriented Policing, 24 positions were returned to patrol duties.
Greensboro police said Tuesday in a news release that Scott sees the increase in patrol officers and the suspension of traffic stops for equipment infractions as an opportunity to build on his strategy to better connect with all of Greensboro’s residents.
“Neighborhood oriented policing is pushing our efforts in a direction that is different from the traditional manner of policing,” Scott said. “It’s about problem-solving and community satisfaction.”
In August, Scott requested several academic researchers to analyze the department’s traffic stop data in greater detail, compare the results to recently-published reports and provide findings of possible underlying relationships between the enforcement actions and societal factors.
Additionally, GPD will soon be hosting a meeting with other North Carolina police chiefs to share concerns and discuss possible courses of action to address these disparities, which are evident in cities across the state, police said.
“The issue of racial disparities in law enforcement actions is incredibly complicated,” said Scott. “I want our officers and our community members to understand that we have been aggressively taking a close look at our data and the underlying causes of the statistical disparities. This research must be thorough and it must be accurate. However, the information we get from our multiple efforts will certainly help us better understand and address the issue.”
Greensboro Police said in the news release Scott is unsure how this temporary suspension will affect the public’s perception of GPD or its effect on crime.
The department will evaluate empirical data and anecdotal feedback in 30-day increments.
Leaders will also evaluate the final report provided by the academic researchers. Based on the totality of the information gathered, the department may make changes to existing policies and/or training.