In October, a group of Nashville activists stood on the steps of City Hall to announce findings of racial disparities in local policing and to demand changes to how traffic stops are conducted. Now they’ll get the chance to show the Metro Council exactly what they found by analyzing 82,000 traffic stops from the past five years.
The group Gideon’s Army found that black drivers are stopped — and their vehicles searched — far more often than whites. Yet, police rarely find incriminating evidence. So the group charges that the tactic amounts to “stop and search” harassment of thousands of drivers.
From the start, Gideon’s Army has tried to enlist powerful allies. The group sent 200 pages of findings to the Department of Justice, which has investigated police departments in other cities. And civil rights attorney Kyle Mothershead said then that other local leaders needed to see the evidence.
“The police department reviews this same data every year … and every year the police department finds a way to justify them,” he said.
Metro police did, in fact, respond by saying that their vehicle stops target high-crime areas.
Gideon’s Army has not backed down. The group prepared a rebuttal to show that racial disparities exist across the county, regardless of the amount of crime — in 64 of 66 policing zones.
“MNPD’s justification for the race disparities is wholly lacking,” the group wrote.
Gideon’s Army and police are also at odds over the idea of “looking beyond the stop,” or using traffic stops to turn up drugs or weapons.
The council will get a rundown of the findings. Members have been considering whether to require the police to routinely share data on traffic stops.
Gideon’s Army said its presentation will include material from researchers and from black drivers who were interviewed for its study.
“Gideon’s Army welcomes both the interest of Metro Council in learning more about the report’s findings and the opportunity to present directly to public officials who have a role to play in making the kinds of changes that the report shows are necessary,” the group said.
Metro police have also been invited to present to the council.