"We believe that data," Raleigh Police Department Lt. Eric Goodwin told the ABC11 I-Team. "The math is accurate and it is concerning. We should be striving to equalize, to balance the need for police services. We need to balance enforcement. We need to get to that place and continue to strive for that."
In a special investigation, the ABC11 I-Team collaborated with ABC News and ABC Owned Television Stations in reviewing more than 5 million arrest records submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation by some 800 local law enforcement agencies.
Overall, North Carolina agencies arrested black individuals at a rate 2.5x higher in 2018, but an I-Team analysis found 40% of the agencies reporting even greater arrest disparities. Records from the Raleigh Police Department, moreover, weren't included in the FBI's trove; officials blamed the omission on a "technical glitch."
The ABC11 I-Team has since obtained those files from Raleigh Police Department, and the I-Team's analysis is now at the forefront of this latest investigation--which shows Black individuals are arrested at a rate of 4.7 times higher than white individuals by RPD's officers.
The disparities between Black and white individuals is even greater for certain types of crimes, including thefts/larcenies/robberies (4.98x), assaults (5.27x) and drugs (5.87x).
There is more of a balance for child abuse (3.11x) and drunk driving (1.45x).
In a sitdown interview with ABC11, Lt. Goodwin and Dep. Chief Michael Galloway recognized the optics of the analysis, but insisted there is nothing nefarious behind the numbers.
"Police officers are most likely to make an arrest in the areas where police officers are most likely to be, and police officers are most likely to be in the areas where we are called for police services," Lt. Goodwin said. "Those areas on the map are areas that have higher concentration of African American residents as opposed to other areas of the city and because we are responding to calls of service in those area."
The lieutenant added that according to the department's 2020 data, 88% of shooting victims were Black individuals and 57% of its victims for "crimes against people" were also Black individuals.
"This is a societal issue," Dep. Chief Galloway said. "Issues that relates to environmental, social-economic conditions, education, and those things lend themselves to criminal activity which by default the police come into play and you take enforcement measures to address these issues."
The deputy chief adds the department has had a goal to diversify its workforce, reviews its own data involving race and has internal conversations about the impacts of implicit biases. Officers also regularly go through training and courses on fair and impartial policing that addresses implicit biases.
"This is an ongoing process that you continue to strive to improve. We are a progressive department and we are always looking for ways to improve upon our response and the way we conduct our business," Galloway added.
Like RPD, other law enforcement agencies in North Carolina are considering ways to combat these statistics, and many more nationwide are reviewing policies and practices that might factor disproportionate numbers in the wake of George Floyd's murder. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder in Floyd's death after kneeling on his neck during an arrest for eight minutes and forty-two seconds.
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"Racial disparities in arrests are a symptom of a bigger problem within the criminal justice system," Dawn Blagrove, Executive Director of Emancipate NC, a Durham-based organization dedicated to educating and ending structural racism, said. "That bigger problem is systemic and institutional racism. Until we are willing to address the fact that our criminal justice system is rooted in racism, is rooted in controlling Black and brown bodies, we will never really be able to fully understand or conceptualize data that we receive that shows there are these huge disproportionate Black folks or brown folks who are touched by the criminal justice system."