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Council votes against motion for committee to address traffic stop racial disparities

'I don't think we should ever get into the business of trying to tell the police how to police,' Council Member Derrick Thompson said. ' ... I think if we have a concern or issue about any specific area, we bring it to the police chief's attention and we let him figure it out with him and his staff.'


At the Fayetteville City Council meeting Monday, council members continued to debate each other about consistent racial disparities in traffic stops conducted by Fayetteville police officers. 

Police Chief Kemberle Braden presented to the council traffic stop data for the entirety of 2023, which was similar to data in previous quarterly reports in 2023. In the annual report, white drivers accounted for 16,230 traffic stops, or 32% of the total stops, while making up 39% of Fayetteville’s population. Black drivers accounted for 31,816 traffic stops, or 64% of total stops, while making up 42% of the Fayetteville population. Search rates were also higher for Black drivers at 4% of vehicles searched, and lower for white drivers at 2% of vehicles searched. 

Throughout the presentation, council members posed questions to Braden. Debate around traffic stops came to a head when Council Member Mario Benavente proposed a motion to have the council’s Community Safety Committee consider possible measures to address racial disparities in the stops and searches, and return to the council with recommendations to improve the issue.

“I'd like for us to make a motion right now that the Community Safety Committee on city council can look at this issue, disparate stops and searches, what we can do to address it based on things that are legal in North Carolina, and be able to bring that back to a work session without necessarily having to do a council member request,” Benavente said. “Because we're asking right now that this be something that we can work on.

“This is the fundamental cultural shift the city of Fayetteville needs to undergo,” Benavente continued with regard to his proposed motion. “The police do not equal public safety. We as a board have all the authority to address public safety issues, and that does not happen just with the police department, does not happen only through the police department. We can bring down crime in this community without arrests going up.” 

The council voted 7-3 to oppose Benvaente’s measure, with council members Malik Davis and Deno Hondros joining Benavente in voting in favor. Council members D.J. Haire, Lynne Greene, Derrick Thompson, Brenda McNair and Courtney Banks-McLaughlin, and Mayor Mitch Colvin and Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Jensen, voted against the measure. Senior members of the council were especially outspoken about their opposition, arguing it was not in the council’s purview. 

“I don't think we should ever get into the business of trying to tell the police how to police,” Thompson said. “I will never go for that. I think if we have a concern or issue about any specific area, we bring it to the police chief's attention and we let him figure it out with him and his staff. They're the experts in this field and we are not.” 

Jensen suggested the council have Dr. Gerard Tate, director of the N.C. Office of Violence Prevention within the N.C. Dept. of Public Safety, who is advising the council on its Office of Community Safety initiative, also provide guidance on the traffic stop disparities. 

“We're talking about making some serious decisions here and talking about something that has not been in any of our wheelhouses as much as we say it is,” Jensen said. “It's not in our wheelhouse. We're not police officers. We're not out there.”

The motion followed exchanges during Braden’s presentation between Benavente and the police chief surrounding racial disparities in traffic stops as well as police use-of-force incidents, which also disproportionately involved Black men in Fayetteville, according to the data. 

Braden said he believed there was no evidence for racial profiling within the police department of Black drivers. 

“As a police officer, I can put no racial input or bias into the reason for a stop,” Braden said. “The outcomes, what the race or the color of the driver is once that stop is conducted, is something I have no control over.”

Colvin expressed concern about other racial disparities in the 2023 data, such as in homicides and aggravated assault cases that disproportionately involved Black individuals. Colvin also mentioned, as a cautious example, the city council’s attempt in 2012 to address racial disparities in traffic stops. The attempt resulted in the resignation of the city manager at the time, WRAL reported, who had butted heads with the council over its vote to temporarily halt traffic stop consent searches while an independent group reviewed claims of racial disparities in police traffic stops. 

Police department annual review

Police data from 2023 showed crime was down overall in Fayetteville, with homicides being a major exception. Here’s a look at the statistics presented on Monday

Crime trends 

  • Total crime is at a seven-year low 
  • Total crime is down by 10% 
  • Property and person-related crimes are down by 11% and 7% respectively 
  • Motor vehicle thefts are up by 27.7% and robberies are up by 8.2% 
  • Crimes against society, such as drug or weapon violations, are up 62%
  • Total violent crime is at a seven-year low
  • Homicides, which have been on the rise for the past three years, have continued to increase. A record-high of 52 homicides occurred in 2023, representing a 23.8% increase 
    • Homicide clearance rates, the police’s rate of solving murder cases, are 92.5%, well above the national average
    • 75% of homicides involved the use of a firearm
  • Incidents of rape are down about 2.6%, with 75 recorded 
  • Incidents of aggravated assault are down by 15.2%, with 1,008 recorded 
  • Domestic violence incidents are down by about 13.8%, with 313 incidents of felonies or misdemeanors for domestic aggravated assault  
    • Police made 1,769 domestic violence referrals to Phoenix Center, which made contact with 1,040 victims, including 199 repeat contacts 
  • Total arrests are up by 32% 
    • Felony arrests are up by 29%
    • Misdemeanor arrests are up 34% 
  • 1,662 total juvenile charges
    • Eight murders/attempted murders 
    • 152 assaults 
    • 114 shoplifting incidents 
    • 51 instances of motor vehicle theft 
    • 78 instances of breaking and entering 

Traffic stops

  • Overall traffic stops are up 53%, with 49,752 stops in 2023
  • Black drivers continue to be stopped and their vehicles searched at twice the rate than white drivers 
  • White drivers accounted for 16,230 traffic stops, or 32%. People who identify as white make up 39% of Fayetteville’s population. 
    • 2% of vehicles stopped were searched 
    • 42% of vehicles searched resulted in the seizure of weapons or drugs
  • Black drivers accounted for 31,816 traffic stops, or 64% of stops. People who identify as Black make up 42% of the Fayetteville population. 
    • 4% of vehicles stopped were searched
    • 65% of vehicles searched resulted in a seizure of weapons or drugs
  • Drivers of other races accounted for 1,987 stops, or 4%. People who identify as races other than Black or white alone make up 27.3% of Fayetteville’s population. 
    • Less than 2% of vehicles stopped were searched 
    • 60% of the vehicles searched resulted in the seizure of weapons or drugs

SoundThinking (formerly known as ShotSpotter) 

  • From Sept. 29 to Dec. 31, there were 210 alerts of shots fired
  • The alerts resulted in five recovered guns and nine arrests 
  • Breakdown of program areas: 
    • Cross Creek: 62 alerts, one gun recovered, one arrest 
    • Central: 70 alerts, no guns recovered or arrests 
    • Campbelton: 78 alerts, four guns recovered, eight arrests 

Use-of-force incidents

  • 82 incidents were recorded in 2023, compared to 68 incidents in 2022
  • Black males accounted for the majority of incidents, 56 of the 82. White males accounted for 11 incidents, Black females for eight, white females for one incident, other races/genders for six of the incidents. 
  • Five incidents involved firearm discharge and 21 incidents involved use of a taser 
  • There were 556 incidents of resistance, in the form of assault on an officer, resisting arrest or speed to elude arrest. Of these incidents, Black males accounted for 326, white males for 95, Black females for 83, white females for 28 and other races/genders for 24 of the incidents.    

Other police statistics

  • Service calls dispatched: 289,088
  • Homeless-related 911 calls: 3,797
  • Mental health-related service calls: 2,469
  • Suicides have increased by 56%, with 39 incidents recorded 
  • Drug overdoses have decreased by 44%, with 32 incidents recorded 
  • Recruitment and retention issues: 84 vacancies, including 59 vacancies for sworn full-time officers. Staff departures were also significant, with 123 staff members leaving in 2023; 78% of all departures were resignations. 
  • 21 crashes and 26 traffic fatalities

Contact Evey Weisblat at eweisblat@cityviewnc.com or 216-527-3608. 

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fayetteville police department, traffic stop racial disparities, police chief kem braden, annual review