So the Greensboro Police Department effective immediately are going to restrict their officers from stopping vehicles when the immediate reason is an equipment violation? To the average citizen this would seem a bit "extraordinary"; not enforcing the law. To some this would seem like not a big deal as they seem to think "well, they aren't really important laws anyway". Then there is the city manager and the Greensboro City Council who seem to have bought into the theory spewed by certain special interests groups in town that all police officers as part of their daily routine wake up and decide which black person they are going to mess with today? They read the half assed investigative hatchet job published by that bastion of journalistic integrity the New York Times and decided it was the gospel reborn, using terms like "shocked" and "appalled" before they had bothered to investigate one bit for themselves. And for those council persons that go "oh, not me" your silence in meetings may as well be approval. We know that Jim Westmoreland doesn't have the intestinal fortitude or backbone to stand up to the opportunistic antagonists as he has single handedly enabled more criminals than any lenient judge could imagine. Anyone who believes this special order is about anything but attempting to appease our leaders and cosmetically reduce the number of traffic stops for African Americans just hasn't been paying attention; but what price are we paying by telling officers to not enforce laws?
Police officers have been under attack by media and special interest groups for more than a year. Though facts in most of the cases cited have proven officers acted not only in good faith but correctly (Ferguson) the media and special interest groups still point to all reported incidents whether valid or not as some sort of conspiracy by all law enforcement to "get black folks". I'm sure the thinking in keeping Greensboro officers from making equipment violation stops is based on a theory that one of the reasons for the disparity in traffic stops along racial lines is that equipment violations tend to occur more in low income areas. The NY Times article even pointed out that while stops of African American drivers were higher than white drivers, white drivers were more likely to be cited. Speaking from experience (29 years worth) I can tell you that it tends to be true that more equipment type violations do occur in low income areas. Why? The folks that live in those areas cannot always afford to fix their stuff. Feed my kids this week or fix that head light? Officers are aware of this and usually show leniency and offer warnings to those drivers. To simply dismiss those violations as being not worthy of enforcement is misguided. Other results that are important to society often are generated from these types of stops.
Revoked driver's licenses. No driver's license at all. Wanted subjects, be it for criminal violations, failure to comply with court judgements, failing to come to court at all. Child support absconders. These are just a few of the people located from stops generated from equipment violations. Are we to allow those who have been prohibited from operating a motor vehicle to continue to violate the law and endanger other citizens? Should businesses that have been victimized by bad checks or theft be told we are no longer utilizing one of the most effective means of locating their suspects and hopefully providing restitution? Should financially strapped single parents and their children's needs be sacrificed for the sake of some politician's concern for statistics?
Another reason they are important is that people who are in violation of these things tend to be transient; we do not have good addresses to find them any other way. Another fact is that in these low income areas there tends to be a large pedestrian population at night; are we to allow cars with no headlights to operate in small, dimly lit neighborhoods with heavy pedestrian traffic?
Do we want to send the message to our law enforcement that though we have trained you, vetted you in our hiring process and kept records on your performance we are now giving in to a small but loud group who reads an article written several states away based on half investigated statistics and are now removing some of your discretion as a result? We no longer have your backs because these loud people are making us uncomfortable. That's a real morale booster.
Hey City Council, you want to reduce equipment violation stops in Greensboro? Deal with some REAL numbers. 14 % of Greensboro citizens on food stamps. 20% of Greensboro citizens living below the poverty line. Greater than 6% unemployment in Greensboro not including the folks who have simply stopped looking for work. All state highs!! Add these numbers to the fact that we have the highest property taxes in the state and we have the reputation for being the most unfriendly business city in the state and it's easy to see why low income families cannot afford to keep their cars in good repair. Fix these numbers and I promise those violations will go down.
It is real easy and even "politically fashionable" to dump everything on the police these days. It's made even easier by an electorate that turns out at an 11% rate to simply rubber stamp the same politicians in office. The 11% showed up so they get to have their say. I was part of the 11% and I am determined to not let this pass without holding everyone accountable.
Police officers aren't perfect; we are human beings making split second decisions with the constant threat of Monday Morning quarterbacking by people who have zero clue about what our job is like. The media and special interests want to hold police accountable, fine. We hold ourselves accountable, always have regardless of what some loud people may say and have no problem with it. Common sense and practicality demands that everyone involved in this process be held accountable and that all sides are treated fairly; and that includes the police.
It's high time the leaders in Greensboro took their collective heads out of the sand and stop refusing to admit what the causes of our problems are. Throwing money and picking on police will not make food deserts, failing businesses on the east side go away any more than it will make new businesses appear. New businesses will not invest on the east side or anywhere else in our city if they cannot be assured their assets will be protected. Like it or not to deal with the real heart of the economic problems in this city you NEED the police and you had better start defending them. If you continue to tear them down how can you expect them to be there? Greensboro will not improve one iota without police involvement. The Greensboro City Council needs to hear this message loud and clear, even if you are one of the 89% of citizens that did not bother to vote!