In Durham County, North Carolina, blacks are more than twice as likely as whites to be searched after a speeding stop, and the difference is even higher when they are stopped for a seat belt violation. Durham’s mayor is instituting an investigation into racial profiling by police, after a University of North Carolina Study released last year showed that blacks and Hispanics across the state are much more likely than whites to be searched pursuant to a traffic stop, and much more likely to later be arrested for similar offenses.
The data, which N.C. Central University’s Scott Holmes called evidence that “as an empirical fact … we have a culture in our law enforcement for unconscious institutional racism,” comes as the Department of Justice is filing a lawsuit alleging the state’s new restrictive voting law is discriminatory and will disenfranchise minority voters.
Researchers found that around the state, blacks are three times as likely to be arrested after a stop for a seat belt violation, and that Hispanics are significantly more likely to be arrested when drugs are found in a car, while whites are more frequently issued a citation or a warning:
This data reflects nationwide trends of disproportionate policing against minorities. In a recent Gallup poll, one in four blacks recalled unfair treatment by police within just the last 30 days before the polling. And a federal judge recently found in a major class action challenge that the NYPD engages in unconstitutional racial profiling in its stop-and-frisk program. This summer, several prominent African Americans, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former Reading Rainbow host Levar Burton, professed publicly that they have had to warn their sons about averting police mistreatment.
The North Carolina study was performed as a result of a first-in-the-nation 1999 law mandating collection of racial and ethnic law on all police stops. UNC researches collected data on more than 13 million stops over a period of ten years. Unsurprisingly, at least one bill has been proposed to eliminate the law, although the bill didn’t gain traction.