Core team member & former co-captain Patrick Conant has been working with Ian Mance, an attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ), and Dee Williams, chair of the criminal justice committee of the Asheville chapter of the NAACP, to investigate racial disparities in traffic stop data.
Using the opendatapolicing.com website, which aggregates and tracks traffic stop data required by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), Mance, Conant, and Williams are working to reform policy in Asheville. Some of the statistics tell a particularly troubling story:
- The likelihood of a black driver being searched for a speed limit violation is 234% greater than for white drivers.
- Black drivers are searched around 33% of the time, despite only representing 13% of the Asheville population.
- The contraband “hit-rate” for black drivers (meaning the number of times illicit substances are found) is 28%, compared to 29% for white drivers.
The team has brought this information to the attention of City Staff and City Council to push for more equitable traffic patrolling, and a reduction in regulatory stops in Asheville. Their work culminated recently in a presentation before the full City Council, as reported by the Asheville Citizen Times: Council members: Asheville race, traffic stop data warrant urgent action.
This work is an example of the kind of significant impact possible using publicly available data and existing tools. The team and their efforts have received significant coverage from a number of media outlets. A January story in the Citizen-Times, Advocacy group uses data to police the police on race, provides further background and context to these efforts.
This work is also a great example of collaboration between members of the Asheville community and open data enthusiasts in other cities. Opendatapolicing.com was produced by a partnership between Code for Durham and the SCSJ. Code for Durham provided the technical skills to extract and aggregate the statistics from the SBI, while the SCSJ provided a legal perspective to ensure that the way the information was synthesized and displayed to the end user is accurate and easy to understand.