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Mecklenburg sheriff changes traffic stop policy

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office has ended traffic stops for non-moving violations, such as driving on a revoked license, window tint or a broken taillight.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — The Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office announced it has adopted a new policy that will end traffic stops for certain non-moving violations, including driving with a revoked license or improper equipment, such as a broken taillight. 

The new policy, which was enacted on Sept. 19, ends regulatory stops for non-moving violations. Deputies may charge drivers with regulatory offenses after having stopped a vehicle for a more serious or potentially hazardous violation, however, regulatory offenses cannot be the sole basis for traffic stop. 

Examples of regulatory offenses include having no insurance, vehicle inspection violations, driving without a license and various equipment issues, such as an improper muffler, broken headlights or taillights and window tint. 

This new policy only applies to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office, and not Charlotte-Mecklenburg police. 

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Attorneys for the groups Forward Justice and the North Carolina Second Chance Alliance-Mecklenburg County presented the proposal to Sheriff Garry McFadden, saying the data showed Black drivers were targeted more often by regulatory stops. 

Their data showed that Black people make up about 22% of North Carolina's population, yet they make up 30% of traffic stops. White people are 69% of the population, but only 60% of traffic stops, making Black drivers 95% more likely to be stopped. Data from the UNC School of Government Criminal Innovation Lab shows five of the 10 most charged offenses in Mecklenburg County are regulatory in nature. 

"Exercising appropriate discretion in the enforcement of our laws is one of the greatest challenges and one of the greatest responsibilities of any law enforcement officer," McFadden said in a statement. "It is the intention of this new policy to encourage Mecklenburg County Sheriff's deputies to focus on the most serious and potentially dangerous traffic offenses, while treating all drivers in and through Mecklenburg County equally under the law.

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