Questions raised over police search numbers in Fayetteville

February 15, 2012 7:40:21 AM PST
There are new problems in the fight over alleged racial profiling by the Fayetteville Police Department. Numbers reported to the State Bureau of Investigation about the amount of times drugs were found during so-called consent searches of vehicle were changed.

Originally, Fayetteville police told the SBI that drugs were found in three percent of searches in 2010. But police later updated that figure to 18 percent. In a consent search, police can ask drivers for permission to search a vehicle based on nothing more than a hunch.

The Fayetteville Police Department first drew criticism late last year when it was revealed statistics show 75 percent of all drivers stopped and searched were African American. Police Chief Tom Bergamine - who is retiring June 30 - has denied his officers were involved in racial profiling - instead saying most of the stops were in high population and high crime areas.

Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne said the numbers reported to the SBI were changed without Fayetteville City Manager Dale Iman informing him or any members of the city council. Chavonne told ABC11 that's a big problem.

"We've directed the Manager to give us a clear report of what exactly is happening and what corrective actions that he has planned," said Chavonne.

Troy Williams - the community activist who originally spotted what seemed to be racial profiling by Fayetteville police - also discovered the 2010 numbers had been changed. Williams told ABC11 he believes the change was made for one reason.

"According to these numbers, these new numbers, they looked better. Because it looks like if they're doing consent searches, or probably cause, or whatever searches, their find rate is at a much higher rate than it would have been with the numbers that were reported in 2010," Williams offered.

So which set of numbers are correct?

"That's a good question, and that's the question that we have. We want to know. What are the right numbers?" said Williams.

In an email to the city manager, Mayor Chavonne called the incident "embarrassing and unacceptable" and puts the city in a tough spot with citizens when it comes to transparency and confidence in the city's police department.

"There's no question about that and it's one of the frustrations that I think council has in this process is transparency and confidence," Chavonne told ABC11 "Both of those are important for an effective police force, public safety or our city. And we're committed to that and we're going to have it."

In a statement released to the media Wednesday, Iman said the data the SBI had posted on its website was incorrect and incomplete. Iman said the data was resubmitted to the state in early February because the original data was submitted out of chronological order. He said it appeared the complete data set apparently didn't make it through. The cause was being investigated.

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