Local News

Report: Racial profiling by Fayetteville police can't be proven

Posted March 13, 2012 7:44 a.m. EDT

— Consultants who reviewed the Fayetteville Police Department say blacks are disproportionately subjected to traffic stops and warrantless searches, but the analysts cannot say officers are guilty of racial profiling.

The Fayetteville Observer reported (http://bit.ly/webONF) that the city council voted Monday to accept the report from the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. The report recommends changes, including the creation of a complaint review panel.

Also on Monday, the city officials agreed to a pending court order that Fayetteville will not try to impose any moratorium on police searches following traffic stops until a lawsuit over the procedure is resolved.

City Attorney Karen McDonald said that Fayetteville and the Southern States Police Benevolent Association agreed to let the lawsuit run its course to determine whether the city has the authority to halt the searches. McDonald said she plans to concentrate on defending the city's actions in the lawsuit.

The City Council voted 8-2 in January to halt so-called consent searches of vehicles for 120 days while a consultant investigated claims that the practice disproportionately targets black drivers.

Some residents and local groups, including a minority lawyers association and the NAACP, raised concerns a year ago that the police force might be illegally profiling black drivers.

Police Chief Tom Bergamine and the PBA decried the council's decision, saying it was unlawful and that consent searches are an important law enforcement tool. They filed a lawsuit seeking to resume the practice, and a judge recently granted an injunction to allow the searches to continue.

The Fayetteville Police Department has changed its consent search procedure by requiring officers to use written consent forms when performing searches.

City Manager Dale Iman announced his resignation last Friday. Council members asked Iman to step down because they were unhappy that he opposed their vote to end consent searches.

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Information from: The Fayetteville Observer