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State Highway Patrol Looks At Allegations Of Racial Profiling

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Since Sept. 11, there has been a lot of discussion about racial profiling, but when it comes to traffic stops, the issue has been a hot topic of debate for many years. Is it perception or reality?

Many drivers get a little nervous when they see a highway patrol car, but black drivers say they have real reason to be nervous.

"It's known. If you get stopped by Highway Patrol, you're going to get a ticket," said Jermaine McKenzie, of the Raleigh-Apex chapter of the NAACP.

According to statistics from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, for the first eight months of this year, 93.6 percent of black drivers stopped by the North Carolina Highway Patrol were arrested or received tickets. That compares with 87.4 percent of Hispanic drivers and 81.6 percent of white drivers.

"Nine times out of 10 when you stop a black person, they have illegal drugs. They have something. They've done something wrong. That's not the case," McKenzie said. "We're just trying to make a living like everybody else."

Last month, a Durham judge dismissed a drunk driving charge after concluding that a

state trooper

was targeting Hispanics, an accusation the Highway Patrol denies.

"Often, a lot of people are afraid of the police in general. That in itself creates a barrier," said Aura Camacho Maas, of the Latin American Resource Center.

Highway Patrol officials said this year's stats do not point to racial profiling.

"The Highway Patrol has a firm and solid stance that we don't condone or practice racial profiling," said Sgt. Everett Clendenin, of the North Carolina state Highway Patrol. "It is not fair and it's not smart to say an agency like the Highway Patrol is racial profiling by looking at data that occurred over an eight-month time period which is a small picture, a small piece of the puzzle. You have to look at the whole puzzle before you can make such a serious allegation of racial profiling."

N.C. State researcher Matthew Zingraff agrees.

"There's nothing in those data that can serve of the decision making process that law enforcement officers may or may not go through in determining who they stop and when they stop," he said.

Zingraff just completed an in-depth study of the highway patrol. He was looking to see if troopers engaged in racial profiling. Zingraff will not tell WRAL what he found until a national institute reviews his work.

Zingraff said as soon as the National Insitute of Justice reviews his study, it will be made available to the public. The Highway Patrol said it is confident the study will show there is no evidence of racial profiling in their organization.


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