CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For the first time ever, we’re seeing data that proves racial inequality when it comes to being pulled over in North Carolina.
Analysis of more than 20 million stops in the Tar Heel State since 2002 found blacks are 95 percent more likely to be pulled over than whites and 115 percent more likely to be searched after being stopped.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police have searched four times more black drivers than white drivers since 2017.
In 1999, North Carolina became the first state ever to require departments nationwide to record specific details of every traffic stop, including race of the drivers. The data began coming in around the year 2000.
Now, 18 years later, researchers at the University of North Carolina have finally crunched the numbers.
“It’s not really appropriate to question anymore whether driving while black put you in a different place, it clearly does,” said UNC Chapel Hill professor Dr. Frank Baumgartner, one of the researchers who compiled the data for a now-published book titled Suspect Citizens.
Baumgartner said he was shocked to find almost two decades of data collected from more than 20 million traffic stops in North Carolina was never analyzed, not one single report.
So he took matters in his own hands. What he found is something people of color have been saying for a long time now.
“African American drivers are much more likely to be pulled over than white drivers,” he said. “About twice as likely actually.”
Dr. Barumgartner’s extensive research covers the entire state; numbers for individual departments are available to the public online.
NBC Charlotte took a look at CMPD’s data, and found in the past year:
- Charlotte police pulled over 37.5 percent more black drivers than white drivers
- 5,146 black drivers were searched and only 1,322 white drivers were searched
“No one is more concerned about disparity than I am; it’s a red flag,” CMPD Chief Kerr Putney recently said of the data.
The department referred NBC Charlotte to a video they recently posted to Facebook in which Chief Putney offers some explanation.
“It’s fair to say that we have more staffing more resources in areas that have a statistically higher rate of violent crime, both victimization and suspects and those neighborhoods, unfortunately, are African American neighborhoods?” A CMPD officer asked.
“It’s not just fair, it’s a fact.” Chief Putney responded, “It’s by design that we place our people there proactively.”
CMPD calls it a delicate balance, others call it flat out unfair.
“If I was a young Hispanic male living in what’s called a high drug area which might be home, might be where my school is, and if I was a mother a father of that young man and I had found out that for the 18th time in the last six months he'd been questioned, I’d be angry,” Baumgartner said.
As far as the reason people are pulled over, the biggest racial disparities in CMPD didn’t come from speeding, DUIs, checkpoints, or investigations. They came from seat belt and vehicle equipment violations: 50 times more black drivers pulled over for those minor infractions than whites.