‘Driving While Black’ report at focus of Metro Council meeting

Photo: WKRN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Metro Council held a special meeting Monday night about a recent report that focuses on the Metro Nashville Police Department and their tendencies when pulling over drivers.

Gideon’s Army, a local activist group, released the “Driving While Black” report last October.

It states Metro police conduct nearly 8 times more traffic stops each year than the national average—and police stop black drivers at an disproportionately higher rate than white drivers.

“Seventy percent of patrol zones have disparities greater than double, so [black men] are twice as likely to be searched than white men,” said Peter Vielehr with Gideon’s Army.

In response, Metro police Chief Steve Anderson wrote an open letter to the Metro Council on Monday, sharing statistics and explaining how they assign officers and where.

The 2016 data is still being put together, but in 2015, Chief Anderson highlighted there were more than 358,500 vehicle stops.

To put it in perspective, that’s each officer pulling over five cars per week. In the map provided by Metro police, the darker shading is where the most stops were made.

(Courtesy: Metro Nashville Police Department)
(Courtesy: Metro Nashville Police Department)

More than 25,000 people were arrested during those traffic stops, an evidence was seized in more than 3,000 of them.

Chief Anderson wrote that on average, 80 percent or more of those stops only result in warnings. And he says that stops in Nashville are not about tickets but utilized to enhance safety through warnings and to better the community.

Gideon’s Army doesn’t agree.

“Stops and searches create victimization. Being stopped and searched, having your car and your personal belongings and your person searched, when you have done nothing wrong, is victimization,” Vielehr said Monday during the meeting.

The Chief of Police also addressed searches in his letter. He said out of the 358,500 stops, about 5,000 of them needed driver’s consent for a search.

Vielehr questioned, “We really do question the idea of, do these consent searches that fail 90 percent of the time impact the important crime rates we want to reduce, like homicide, and gender violence, and burglary?”

Chief Anderson also noted that a researcher can use data to illustrate the numbers as disparities, but it’s not possible to use that data to show why the disparities exist or they’re unjustified.

Further Reading:

Driving While Black: A Report on Racial Profiling in MNPD Traffic Stops

Open Letter to the Citizens of Nashville Regarding MNPD Activities