Greensboro, North Carolina
In Greensboro, which is 41 percent black, traffic stops help feed the stream of minor charges that draw a mostly African-American crowd of defendants to the county courthouse on weekday mornings. National surveys show that blacks and whites use marijuana at virtually the same rate, but black residents here are charged with the sole offense of possession of minor amounts of marijuana five times as often as white residents are.
And more than four times as many blacks as whites are arrested on the sole charge of resisting, obstructing or delaying an officer, an offense so borderline that some North Carolina police chiefs discourage its use unless more serious crimes are also involved.
Greensboro police officials said most if not all of the racial disparities in their traffic enforcement stemmed from the fact that more African-Americans live in neighborhoods with higher crime, where officers patrol more aggressively. Pulling over drivers, they said, is a standard and effective form of proactive policing.
“The way we accomplish our job is through contact, and one of the more common tools we have is stopping cars,” Greensboro’s police chief, Wayne Scott, who is white, said.