Local/State

Durham police deny racial profiling

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Durham Police Department has responded to accusations of racial profiling with a 45-page report that it says shows there is no bias in how officers choose to make traffic stops and search people.

Click here to read the report (.pdf)

Groups, including the NAACP and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, have pointed to data that shows an uneven number of traffic stops that result in searches when it comes to blacks and whites.

"When we look at the raw numbers, we see hundreds and hundreds - in some years, over a thousand - innocent black motorists subjected to this practice and we don't see anything like that compared to white motorists," offered Ian Mance with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

But Durham police say their critics have it all wrong.

Their view of the numbers suggests only a small percentage of thousands of traffic stops in Durham over several years resulted in consent searches. They admit there are may be some racial disparities within that small group, but they deny it's because officers on the street are biased.

Instead, the department says any scientific analysis of the data would have to include a more thorough examination of factors such as the racial and ethnic makeup of the department's jurisdiction, the racial makeup of drivers on the road, and the "nature and extent of their traffic law-violating behavior."

The department claims racial and ethnic groups are "not equally represented as drivers on roads where stopping activity by police is high."

But critics are not convinced.

"They're talking about a sliver of the overall search numbers. They're talking about consent searches of the vehicle. There are other types of searches of a person's body," said Mance.

While Durham police point to victim descriptions of suspects as one of the main reasons why officers may encounter more black drivers, it's an explanation some are calling spin.

"We are talking about traffic stops of innocent people. We're not talking about crimes involving suspect descriptions. The vast majority of traffic stops do not involve a suspect description. Much of the department's 45-page response is largely beside the point. It's responding to a point that no one has made," said Mance..

No one with the Durham Police Department's top leadership was available to comment Tuesday. The department urged citizens to read its response online.

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