NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Members of a local activist group are challenging Metro police, saying they’re “racially profiling” drivers and dividing our community.
The group is called Gideon’s Army. It’s made up of people who refer to themselves as concerned community members who want the best for children in Nashville.
News 2 spoke with the founder and is taking a look at their report “Driving While Black.”
Members of Gideon’s Army have been gathering information about traffic stops in Nashville, and this report is the result of that research.
It says Metro police stop black and Hispanic drivers more often than white drivers, and use “intimidation tactics” leaving them feeling “fearful, angry, anxious, dehumanized, and traumatized.”
Founder Rasheedat Fetuga is a former fourth grade teacher, and she says she started the organization due to an experience she had with a student years ago.
“He said, ‘And do you see my community?’ He was like, ‘By the time I turn 18, I’ll be dead,’ and Lamar was killed by the time he was 16 years old, and that shook my entire life,” Fetuga told News 2.
She says that’s why she’s committing her life to making sure every child in Nashville has the support they need, and right now, she believes there are policies in place within the Metro Nashville Police Department targeting black people, especially in poor communities.
“If we’re not careful, we’re definitely going to have a situation where we are just like Ferguson,” Fetuga said.
“Black people are targeted significantly more than anyone else in the city, but when they find criminal activity, it is usually during a traffic stop with white women,” she explained.
She said the group gets that information from public records put out by Metro police. Those records were then analyzed by a team of over 60 people, including academics from Vanderbilt University.
North Precinct Commander Terrence Graves says the number of violent crimes in that area decreased in 2016, in part because of traffic stops.
“Traffic stops are an important factor when it comes to identifying crime. Often times we have people who are willing to commit violent crimes who don’t follow traffic laws,” Graves told News 2.
He continued, “In my area, I have more blacks that are killed every year. Can they explain that? Robbery suspects are majority African-American, unfortunately. It’s an uncomfortable, unfortunate fact that suspects of these violent crimes are African-American. It’s not like anyone got together and had a meeting saying, ‘Let’s go out and victimize.’”
Fetuga says she doesn’t think traffic stops have anything to with the crime rate reduction, but one thing she and Metro police do agree on is that they want to save lives.
The members of Gideon’s Army also said they filed a complaint with the Department of Justice, but they believe in order for real change to take place, the community has to get behind them.