Local News

Study: Black male drivers more likely to be pulled over in Durham

Posted March 17, 2016

— An analysis of Durham traffic stops over a five-year period revealed that black male drivers were disproportionately pulled over by officers.

The study, performed by RTI International, was released Thursday and examined 151,700 traffic stops conducted between January 2010 and October 2015. In order to study the racial distribution of the traffic stops, researchers said they used the “veil of darkness” approach, which is based on the assumption that police officers are less able to determine the race of a motorist after dark.

The research found that in traffic stops with male drivers, the odds of a stopped driver being black were 20 percent higher during daylight than times of darkness. The research also indicated that the racial disproportionality declined over the six-year period, with black male drivers most represented between 2010 and 2013.

"We don't know what causes it, the report doesn't show. That's why it's important among us as law enforcement leaders, when we find things like this, to try to address it and look at that," said Interim Chief Larry C. Smith."Those are some of the things we'll be looking at as we think about what our HEAT team does, the training they receive, and teh community of Durham's expectations of its police department."

By 2014, the difference in the odds of a black driver being pulled over during the daytime were indistinguishable, said a press release from the Durham Police Department.

“We believe the improvements in the disproportionality are a result of the changes in our policies, procedures and training that we’ve instituted in the past few years,” said Smith in a statement. “This shows that we are willing to listen to our community and make adjustments in our policing practices when necessary.”

No evidence of racial disproportionality was found among female drivers, police said.

Durham police said that the results of the analysis showed that the levels of disproportionality varied by different units within the organization. The greatest difference was found among the High Enforcement Abatement Team (HEAT), which focuses on drug, vice, and gang violence, while where was no evidence of disproportionality in stops conducted by the Durham Police Department’s Traffic Services unit, police said.

Durham police said that in order to ensure fair and balanced policing during traffic stops, HEAT, patrol, and Traffic Services units are outfitted with in-car cameras to capture interactions. In addition, the department performs biannual analysis for any officers with at least a 75 percent or higher stop rate of minorities.


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  • William Mitchell Apr 6, 2016
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Also please take notice to the nature of the arrests. I find it ever so humorous that some will grasp at any straw in an attempt to make everything a race issue.

    Possession of Illegal Drugs
    Drug Trafficking
    Felony Assault
    Breaking and/or Entering, larceny...all of these are primarily black

    Misd. Larceny....all primarily white.

    Those are the facts using he same information source that you mention.

    That having been said please explain how it is that Durham PD is targeting either race for those specific crimes. I await your reply.

  • Jim Hinnant Mar 18, 2016
    user avatar

    Keep up the fire, Capital Broadcasting. Never let the opportunity to open a would pass. Great job!

  • Salatheal Hasty Mar 18, 2016
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    You are funny...You know alot about nothing!

  • Cameron Horn Mar 18, 2016
    user avatar

    RTI also studied traffic stops data for Raleigh, Fayetteville and Greensboro and found no evidence of racial bias.
    Don't think I read that part on WRAL

  • Clif Bardwell Mar 18, 2016
    user avatar

    First off, those of you who are saying Durham is majority black, you need to do a bit more research.


    According to the census data, as of 2014 the percentage of white is 53.0% and black is 38.6%. I highly doubt in two years, the ration could have jumped to 10:1!

    That having been said, no one has (as far as I can find) done a study on what percentage of any particular race are likely to commit a crime. Not to sound racist, but the question has to be asked, are (were) there more blacks stopped because blacks are more likely to be doing something that would cause them to be stopped?

  • Matt Carter Mar 18, 2016
    user avatar

    "cause the ratio of blacks to whites in Durham is probably 10:1"

    you can't be serious....

  • Shandy Scott Mar 18, 2016
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    Right across from the article is a list with pics of Durham arrests. Durham has a black population of 40% yet made up over 80% of the arrest.

  • Kathy Wilson Mar 18, 2016
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    And what is the percentage of black male drivers on the road during the daylight hours versus other ethnicities??? If you are doing the crime I don't care what color you are- our law enforcement officers should be able to pull you over and ticket it for you without having to worry that the previous 4 drivers they ticketed were black so now they better ticket at least 4 white drivers. And for the headline- bad reporting WRAL. Rapidly losing respect for you.

  • Jon Smith Mar 17, 2016
    user avatar

    So the headline is "Black male drivers more likely to be pulled over in Durham"...and yet the article states based on their methodology, the little bias they found no longer exists today. Why is the headline not "Black male drivers treated equally in Durham in 2015"? I guess that would not serve the WRAL agenda.

  • Jan Dillard Mar 17, 2016
    user avatar

    Wow. That is sensationalist journalism at its finest. Shame on you, WRAL. That headline is designed to enrage and divide, and it uses inaccuracy to do so. An accurate headline would be "Black male drivers WERE more likely to be pulled over in Durham from 2010 to 2013, but since then, the police department has implemented changes that are working, and now there is no racial differential." Shoddy, inflammatory job, WRAL. I am disappointed in you.