Earlier this year, Patrick Conant worked with Ian Mance, an attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ), and Dee Williams, chair of the criminal justice committee of the Asheville chapter of the NAACP, to bring racial disparities in traffic stop data from OpenDataPolicing.com to the attention of City leadership, as we reported in our May 2, 2017 newsletter. In keeping with the justice theme of this week’s newsletter, we reached out to Patrick to find out where things stand with that effort. Here is his response.

The NAACP Criminal Justice Committee reached out to Chief Hooper in August to start a conversation around the traffic stop data and the quarterly reports that APD will now provide to Council. We held an initial meeting to discuss our questions about the data, and metrics we would like to see included in the quarterly report. We agreed to have a follow up conversation when the first quarterly report was completed.

Chief Hooper reached out to us a few weeks ago, requesting a meeting to discuss the report in advance of her presentation before the Public Safety Committee. During this meeting, Chief Hooper walked us through the full report, and was very specific in asking us for suggestions or analysis that could improve future quarterly reports.

I am very impressed by the way in which APD’s analysts are digging into the traffic stop metrics and working to provide additional context in a data-oriented manner. They have made really significant improvements to the report compiled during traffic stops, most significantly including the geographic location of all stops. It also appears that APD’s increased focus and improved processes around traffic stop data has improved the quality of the overall data set, and they now have processes in place to re-submit data that doesn’t appear in the state database due to technical issues.

We have reached a point where I feel this is now a collaborative process, and I do feel that APD is genuinely interested in working to make these reports as complete and informative as possible.

While I remain concerned by the “broad” numbers for stops and searches of African American drivers in Asheville, APD’s report shows their initial efforts to help explain the shift we see in the data. More importantly, I think we have a process where the community can feel comfortable suggesting further improvements and analysis in these reports, and I generally feel that we are moving towards a true 21st Century Police department here in Asheville.

What a shift from where we started a year ago!

Thank you,
Patrick Conant