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Carrboro police presents findings of recent racial bias study

The Carrboro Police Department.

The Carrboro Police Department.

Fair and equal treatment by police is a nationwide issue, but the Carrboro Police Department is conducting a more local examination. The Department has tracked bias in their policing over recent years and presented their findings to the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday.

Board of Aldermen member Damon Seils said the Carrboro Police began analyzing statistics two years ago following community forums that showed complaints about unfair policing.

“At the end of the day, we want outcomes that do not differ inappropriately based on race,” he said.

The Police Department made the recent report after improving its ability to track data and hiring an analyst. The report highlights traffic stops, the race of those pulled over and what resulted from the stops.

Police Chief Walter Horton said that over the statistic viewing period between 2012-17, the Department has been consistent with who they are stopping on the road.

“Every time an officer stops a car, we have to fill out a report,” he said. “It captures the data for the purpose of the stop, occupant information and what action we take.”

The main reason police stop cars is for speeding. Where the police are most worried about bias, however, is in equipment and regulatory stops.

Chief Horton said that the police department is making an effort to lower equipment and regulatory stops. This way the driver doesn’t have to go to court or pay for a ticket over a minor infraction.

“To get your car inspected — that’s 25 to 30 dollars,” he said. “If you’ve got something going on and can’t get it fixed, it starts that cycle.”

The Department is also trying to cut back on the number of marijuana charges, which historically have a racial bias. Chief Horton said while marijuana is a less important offense, it is dangerous when people drive high or get into arguments over the sale.

“We look at if it’s packaged for sale or delivery, or something like that in large amounts, then that’s when we deal with it,” he said.

The Board of Aldermen presented the Police Department with questions beforehand about possible bias against immigrants or Muslims in Carrboro, but Horton said there was no evidence of profiling against these groups.

“Immigration, that’s the hot topic right now,” Horton said. “But to put it how I said it, we don’t care. That’s the federal agents' job.”

While there has been no racial profiling detected in the statistics gathered by the Department, they also have a software that gives a racial profiling score based on who the police stop on the road.

This program is called RTI STAR. For the Carrboro Police, the RTI STAR analysis shows a p-value of .8121 for African Americans and .7680 for Hispanics. Both of these values indicate that there is no significant racial bias present.

“For the racial profiling to occur, the p-value would have to be .05 or less,” he said. “Ours is much higher as you can see.”

Moving forward, the town is looking for better ways to present this kind of report publically.

“This is also information that we want to share with all of the community, not just those of us who sit here,” Seils said.


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