Local News

Senate Bill Would Help Determine Whether Troopers Target Black Drivers

Posted February 17, 1999

— State Highway Patrol Troopers can't pull over every speeding car, so who is more likely to get a ticket? Black motorists say they are. State lawmakers want to know if their perception is the reality.

The only way to find out is to review the statistics of state highway patrol officers. The problem is, the numbers are incomplete. A senate committee will consider a bill next week that would change that.

The bill, introduced byState Senator Frank Ballance, would affect all law enforcement officers employed by the state, including employees of theDMV,ALE, and campus security officers employed by the state.

The bill would require all officers to keep records for all traffic stops; the record would include a driver's gender, race, and age.

Ballance believes the bill will address the issue of whether blacks are more often the targets of law enforcement officers. He hopes it will also help end discrimination.

"This kind of legislation will send the correct message that we will not tolerate people being stopped in this state because of the color of their skin," Ballance says.

TheNorth Carolina Highway Patrolsays the numbers it currently records prove that drivers are not pulled over based on race.

"The patrol has an ironclad policy that prohibits any trooper from using unfair or discriminatory practices in the enforcement of the law," says Joe Stewart of theDepartment of Crime Control and Public Safety.

The records do not provide information about who is pulled over, though; they provide information only when officers issue citations and written warnings.

Still, the patrol says the percentage of citations issued reflects the racial make-up of the state's population. The patrol numbers are higher, though, than the percentage of blacks who drive based on DMV numbers.

The patrol welcomes the new legislation which Senator Ballance sees as a way for officers to police themselves. The Highway Patrol says it will need new forms and computer software if the bill is approved.

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