State News

Fayetteville asks for federal review of police procedures

Posted December 10, 2010 6:05 a.m. EST
Updated December 10, 2010 7:03 p.m. EST

— City administrators in Fayetteville have asked the U.S. Justice Department to evaluate traffic stop practices of police after data showed officers were nearly four times more likely to search a car with a black driver.

City Manager Dale Iman sent a letter this week asking for the Justice Department's review of the police department.

Iman's view, described in his letter, is that the outsized number of blacks being searched "is reflective of active policing in high-crime areas which happen to be in predominately African-American communities and is not based upon race."

“It’s not that we target African-American neighborhoods or white neighborhoods, we target neighborhoods that have crime going on,” he said Friday.

Local NAACP president Jimmy Buxton said he is glad the city is seeking an independent review and wants to review more than 23,000 traffic stop reports dating to August 2009 to see if officers are profiling drivers by their race.

Buxton said he became concerned when it was reported this fall that 1,239 black drivers were searched in traffic stops last year, compared with 346 white drivers.

The vast majority of the 25,024 traffic stops by police in 2009 didn't lead to searches of a driver, vehicle or passengers, according to a public database compiled by the State Bureau of Investigation

Officers must have a reason to believe a vehicle or the people inside are engaged in wrongdoing before conducting a search, unless the driver consents to an officer's request.

Buxton said he commends city leaders for getting an outside review but says he disagrees with their reasons on the stops.

He added that the NAACP doesn’t believe the entire police department is to blame.

“One apple in the barrel can spoil the whole bunch,” he said. “It needs to stop.”

The Fayetteville Police Department declined making any comment on the complaint Friday. It’s not clear how long the Justice Department’s review will take.