African-Americans in Asheville are three times more likely than white people to be searched by police in traffic stops and are disproportionately charged with common crimes such as marijuana possession in disparities that experts in police bias called shocking, an AVL Watchdog analysis of police data found. Among lower-level crimes such as disorderly conduct, trespassing and resisting an officer – offenses where police have broad discretion – Black people account for 33 to 40 percent of the charges while representing just 12 percent of the city’s population, according to the analysis of arrests posted on the city’s web site from 2012 through early this month. The data suggest that Asheville, which is on its fifth police chief in nine years, has failed to guarantee equal treatment under the law for all its citizens. “These numbers raise serious concerns about discriminatory policing,” said Roy L. Austin, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, who oversaw federal investigations of racial profiling and misconduct in police agencies.
“While further analysis is certainly appropriate, these numbers cause me to pause,” Austin said, “for their sheer disproportion to the population of Blacks living in the community.”
New Asheville Police Chief David Zack, whose first four months on the job have included the pandemic and massive protests over police treatment of African-Americans, said he’s still examining the department to determine “what we’re doing well and what we need to work on.”
“Certainly, this is really important data that has to be addressed,” he said. “This sort of data is a major concern.”
City of AshevillePolice Chief David Zack
In cities across America, Black people are disproportionately stopped by police and arrested for certain crimes, research shows.
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