Racial tensions between police departments and residents in places Ferguson, Mo. and Baltimore have police across the country looking at their own operations when it comes to dealing with minority groups.
Knightdale is pushing to get ahead of the game.
Council members are currently reviewing a community relations board initiative that will serve as a soundboard for the town’s police department, and a recent study the department completed internally shows a promising lack of disparity in traffic stops.
“There’s so many national events that are calling attention to the relationship between the police department and the community it serves,” Chief Lawrence Capps said.
“And when you see data that validates what you already know about the the level of professional services that you’re delivering to a community ... it motivates you that much more to continue to build those community partnerships,” he said. “We live in a great community and we’ve got a lot of positive support in the community.”
As an additional step in the process to become a nationally accredited department, the study by Captain Jacqui Boykin analyzed data from 2014 and examined traffic stop data from July 2014 through Dec. 2014.
The study period for traffic stops was a shorter time frame than other categories because the department changed the way it collects that data to be consistent with state regulations.
According to the study, the department’s policing is consistent with population demographics.
Knightdale’s population is made up of about 54 percent whites, 40 percent black and 6 percent other races. Thirteen percent identify as Hispanic, according to a 2013 U.S. Census American Community Survey.
In the six months studied, 51 percent of drivers stopped by police were white and 47 percent were black. Thirteen percent of those stopped identified as Hispanic.
After pulling over a driver, police arrest or ticket white women 50 percent of the time and black women 59 percent. White men are ticketed or arrested around 51 percent of the time and black men about 52 percent.
Hispanic men and women face the highest arrest rates, with 64 percent of women receiving a ticket or arrest and police taking action 63 percent of the time with men, which the report attributed to people driving without licenses.
The report noted that black males are searched “more than twice as often as any other gender/race” – about 9 percent of the time they are pulled over. The report noted that the statistic will “be addressed” in the department’s training this year.
Police stopped residents for an interview and ID check at a nearly equal rate. Last year, police stopped five white males, five black males and two men of other races. Most were under the age of 25, walking after dark or in unusual locations.
Last year, the department received seven complaints, with one resident reporting an officer “used racist comments and targeted youth” but she eventually withdrew her complaint.
“There are departments that would love to see their (numbers) look like this,” Capps said.