Last Tuesday, the Greensboro City Council held a meeting where Mayor Nancy Vaughan was given an award, and the council discussed Greensboro City Police traffic stops.
This was the first meeting since the City Council election in which all the incumbents were re-elected, two of which ran unopposed.
“It’s great to be re-elected and have the vote of confidence by 88 percent from District 2 voters. To serve with this distinguished board of elected officials up here, it’s great to work with you again, and I look forward to these next two years,” Councilman Jamal Fox said.
The session began with the N.C. Recreation and Parks Association awarding Vaughan the Distinguishable Legislator for 2015.
This award recognizes an elected official on a federal, state, county or municipal government body who has demonstrated an outstanding contribution to the general field of Parks and Recreation.
A representative of Parks and Recreation awarded the mayor and stated,.
“[She] has been critical to the success of Parks and Rec here in her city and beyond,” the representative said. “She has been so instrumental in lobbying efforts, strategically aligning resources and demonstrating the power of Parks and Recreation that other communities have taken note and have tried to duplicate.”
Parks and Recreation also said that the mayor has paved a way for better lives and a better community.
They provided examples of how the mayor has helped during her term such as the authorization of a $34 million Parks and Recreation facilities bond, $8 million for a neighborhood development bond and aligning resources for the continuation of construction for the Downtown Greenway project.
“I really think I got this because I put a blonde wig on for the final episode of Park and Recreation, “ Mayor Vaughan said, referring to Leslie Knope of the show “Parks and Recreation.”
The mayor also recognized and thanked the city council members and stated that they had a great team.
Greensboro was also selected as a Arts and Humanities winner based off of high school students who performed a fashion show with the idea of Alice in Greener Land, in order to promote recycling. The students had used cans, milk containers, coffee filters and items such as these as part of a creative effort to incorporate going green into fashion.
Chief Wayne Scott of the Greensboro Police Department spoke about a new training and what he is implementing to create a more “neighborhood oriented policing.”
Scott touched on the idea of Greensboro Police and the racial disparity in traffic stops that had been mentioned recently. The council spoke of their concerns, and the Chief of Police reassured them that he looked into the matter and is making changes to have a closer community.
“Police is certainly needed in a community. We cannot continue to allow citizens to feel like they can’t trust the police when they get stopped or when they’re driving,” said Councilwoman Sharon Hightower of District 1.
Scott mentioned that he understood the concerns of the council and the residents of Greensboro. Scott talked about the feedback he has received in his eight months as Chief from 300 community events, hosting and listening at meetings and forums and the bi-annual resident survey.
He mentioned that based on the feedback, the department knows where it is successful and where it might have problems.
“We can’t ticket people for resisting arrest when there is no cause for the arrest in the first place,” Vaughan said.
Scott believes that being aware is not enough but to also understand and fix the problems. He talked about the statistical imbalance created by the traffic stops and believes part of this reason is the increase of police presence in areas that have a higher crime rate.
However, to have a better understanding on what caused the data, the Greensboro Police Department has engaged with independent researchers.
“That study is being conducted by researchers at North Carolina A&T State University and UNC-Greensboro and will be completed early 2016,” Scott said.
Upon completion of the research, the council and the community will have access to review the findings.
Vaughan also suggested that Greensboro should begin doing signed consent searches like Durham and Orange County as well as seeing if these traffic searches are happening from repeating officers. If this is the case, the mayor believes some of the training could also be changed.
Scott talked about policies that will be changed such as that of the Bias-Based Policing Policy to determine if improvements need to be made. In terms of immediate action, Scott discussed what he would do to address the primary area of concern.
Earlier that day, Scott signed an order directing the patrol division to no longer make traffic stops based on infractions related to vehicle equipment violations.
This data will be reviewed as part of the research and was effective starting last Wednesday.
The city council meeting ended with references to the recent election and Veterans Day.
Councilman Mike Barber, At Large, mentioned that although the member have tried to take out all of their yard signs, there might still be some out there. He asks that the citizens watching to feel free to pull them up and throw it in the trash.
“I just want to tip my hat off and thank every veteran that was here tonight and in our community. Thank you for all the sacrifices that you have paid for this community and this nation,” Fox said.