Police Chief Wayne Scott of Greensboro, N.C., ordered his officers to stop pulling over motorists for minor infractions involving vehicle flaws like broken taillights, an action he called a step toward eliminating “alarming” racial disparities in traffic stops, the New York Times reports. The directive followed an article in the Times last month that documented wide racial disparities in traffic-law enforcement in Greensboro, imbalances that were mirrored across North Carolina and appeared in some traffic stop data collected by half dozen other states. “As your police chief, I am deeply disturbed by these issues,” Scott said at a Tuesday City Council meeting largely devoted to the Times investigation. He said stopping vehicles for minor equipment infractions had a needlessly negative impact on minority drivers.
The chief promised better supervision of young officers, a response to data showing that four times as many blacks as whites were charged with the sole offense of resisting, obstructing or delaying an officer after traffic stops and other police encounters. “That, too, is alarming,” he said. Mayor Nancy Vaughan said she found that disparity in those charges the most troubling finding of the Times's investigation. “I find it hard to justify a resisting-arrest infraction when there is no underlying charge,” she said at the council meeting. The mayor said she favored requiring officers to obtain written consent before searching drivers or vehicles, unless they have probable cause to suspect a crime. At least three other North Carolina cities adopted that restriction after reports that blacks were searched far more often than whites.