RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is asking drivers who believe they are the victims of racial profiling by police officers to come forward and tell their stories.
The group posted two forms on its website – a general complaint form and a checkpoint complaint form – asking possible victims of racial profiling to document their experiences to help lobby state legislators or, if necessary, to file lawsuits.
The request was prompted by a 2012 study released by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor analyzing data recorded from more than 13 million traffic stops in the state.
The study reported that Latinos are 96 percent more likely than whites to have their vehicles searched during a traffic stop, while blacks are 77 percent more likely to be searched than whites.
Several drivers from different parts of the state spoke Tuesday about their personal experiences with local police.
"I've been pulled over for no reason at all. I've been dragged out of my vehicle. I've been handcuffed, humiliated, harassed," said driver Lelynd Darkes. "I feel like my voice is the voice of thousands of young African-American men."
Darkes says he has been stopped four times in the past year and a half and searched when he has broken no laws.
The Rev. Charles Robinson says he was dropping off a parishioner after church when an officer pulled in behind him. Robinson asked the officer why he was stopped.
"He made the comment that two black men sitting in a car looked suspicious to him," Robinson said.
Reginald Woods said a Durham police officer stopped him for no reason as well.
"I had asked him for his name and badge number. Then I grabbed my pen, and he tased me," Woods said.
According to a letter from the Durham Police Department's internal affairs division, it investigated and agreed Woods' stop was not warranted. However, a police spokesman said "no facts have been presented to the Durham Police Department which would indicate that this matter is related to racial profiling."
Like many departments across the state, the Raleigh Police Department has a non-biased policing policy, which states that race and someone's ethnic background has no role in a decision to stop or search a vehicle.
"The department has a process in place to handle complaints about any aspect of its services, and the public is encouraged to contact us with any concerns," Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue said in a statement.