Tensions are high between police and the black community. A new NPR poll says 60 percent of African Americans believe they or someone in their family were unfairly stopped by police.
By Alana LaFlore / Newschannel 9
But do traffic stops for “driving while black” happen in Chattanooga? From Chattanooga City Council members to everyday citizens, people we talked to say they’ve had negative experiences with aggressive, confrontational police officers. They said not all officers are bad, but they should be held accountable for treatment of African Americans.
Back in April, Cameron Williams witnessed a traffic stop in downtown Chattanooga. He says young black men were in the car and he worried about their safety.
Police dash cam video shows an officer asking Williams to be quiet. When Williams did not comply, he was arrested and put in handcuffs. Williams believes race led to both his arrest and the initial traffic stop.
“It’s almost a guarantee as an African American in this country that it will happen at least once in your life,” said Williams when asked about racial profiling. “And that’s what really scares me and really pains me in my soul.”
Williams says police have stopped him about two dozen times. Hamilton County court records show a similar number of traffic charges.
“I would say 80 percent of it is driving while black,” said Williams. “Just to see if you know, anything else was going on.”
According to 2011 statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice, police were more likely to pull over blacks than whites or Hispanics. Blacks were also more likely to get a tickets at those stops.
President of the Chattanooga NAACP Dr. Elenora Woods says to stop racial profiling our court system, government and police departments need to shift their thinking about race.
“Racial hatred, bigotry and white supremacy isn’t as flagrant as it used to be,” said Dr. Elenora Woods, Chattanooga NAACP President. “Now, it’s done systemically.”