On Sunday, Oct. 25, Greensboro found itself on the front page of The New York Times, depicted as a city where black drivers are stopped by police far more than white drivers.

On Tuesday, Nov. 10, the Greensboro City Council discussed it.  There was an election in between on Nov. 3, and the City Council evidently was more concerned about its own reelection than being blasted in the country’s premiere newspaper as a racist city.

This is the same City Council that called an immediate, albeit illegal, meeting and press conference when a bill to restructure the City Council was introduced in the state Senate.

Greensboro Police Chief Wayne Scott gave a report to the City Council on the actions that have been taken as a result of the article.  Scott said that he had issued an order prohibiting Greensboro police officers from making traffic stops solely because of an equipment infraction.  That means in Greensboro the police are no longer supposed to pull a vehicle over if a taillight is out or there is some other equipment violation.  Scott said equipment violations account for about 25 percent of traffic stops.  He said there was a better use of police officers’ time than stopping cars for equipment violations, a sentiment that has been expressed by scores of people who have been stopped for just such an infraction.

He also said that as part of the Neighborhood Oriented Policing implementation, 24 officers have been returned to patrol duties.

He said, “Neighborhood Oriented Policing is pushing our efforts in a direction that is different from the traditional manner of policing.  It’s about problem solving and community satisfaction.”

He said that as a result of the article the city had enlisted support from both NC A&T State University and the University of North Carolina-Greensboro to do the research on the statistics that show a racial imbalance in traffic stops and searches.  He said they expect to get the results in January and will make decisions based on the data on how to proceed.

Scott said, “We know where we are successful and where we have problems.”  The decision not to make stops for equipment violations is an immediate response to deal with what appears to be a problem.

Scott said that the department had “zero tolerance” for racial profiling.  When asked to explain exactly what that meant by councilmembers, Scott said that if an investigation of an accusation of racial profiling showed a 51 percent likelihood that racial profiling did occur, the officer would be held responsible.  And when asked if that meant termination, he said yes. 

He did say that every situation is unique, and how something appears at first glance often doesn’t tell the whole story.

Scott said they were focusing on three areas – training, community policing and communications – to deal with the racial disparities noted in the article.  An office of community engagement has been formed to help facilitate the process.

Scott said, “As your police chief I am equally disturbed by these issues.  Racial bias and racial policing is not tolerated by the Greensboro Police Department.”

Councilmember Justin Outling said, “This is a great opportunity to get this right.  It’s not right now, but we have the perfect opportunity to do this now.”

Outling noted that even if a legally valid stop is made but would not have been made except for the race of the driver, that is “categorically unfair.”

Councilmember Jamal Fox said, “It didn’t happen overnight and it’s not going to be changed overnight.”

Councilmember Yvonne Johnson said, “Thank you for not coming before us in denial.  I appreciate that and I think the community appreciates that.”

She said, “I want to let the public know that the majority of this council is committed to work with the chief to make sure that we correct the problem.”

Johnson added, “It takes education and it takes time, but it doesn’t have to take forever.”

Mayor Nancy Vaughan brought up the issue of arrests for resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer when no other charges are filed.  She said, “It doesn’t seem to me that we can ticket people for resisting arrest when we are not arresting them for something.”

Scott agreed thatthe statistic was “alarming” and said they had already taken action to change protocols to deal with at least part of the problem, which involves calls to parties because of excessive noise or other disturbances.  He said that they would no longer send one officer on those calls because it can be an overwhelming experience.  But he added that they are looking at the data to try and understand the underlying cause of these arrests.

Vaughan also said that she thought an officer having to get written consent from the person stopped in order to conduct a consent search, which is a search without probable cause, was a good idea. 

She said, “If there is not probable cause, I don’t know that we should be searching cars.”

Scott said that was another issue where they were delving into the data.

Vaughan said, “It’s important that we understand that there are these disparities.  The numbers are the numbers.  What the professors come back and tell us really doesn’t change that two plus two equals four.”

Councilmembers uniformly expressed support for the Police Department.

The good news in The New York Times article, if there was any, was that one of the reasons Greensboro ended up on the front page, even though the evidence of racial disparity was not as great as some other cities, was because Greensboro keeps better records.

A number of speakers who said they were from the Black Lives Matter movement spoke after Scott, some verbally attacking not just the chief but also two black members of the City Council Johnson and Fox for not doing enough.

Another speaker called for the resignation of Scott and City Manager Jim Westmoreland and promised to disrupt the city.