NORFOLK, Va. - Virginians can now track the data from law enforcement traffic stops online at this website.
The data is being posted as part of the Virginia Community Policing Act, which passed last year. The law requires police to track the age, gender, race and ethnicity of people being pulled over. The data shows what the result of the traffic stop was.
People can examine the data statewide, regionally and locally. State Police data analysts demonstrated how the website works to reporters on Friday morning.
"Gov. Northam is committed to building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, and this is a really important step in that process," said Alena Yarmosky, the governor's press secretary.
Data on the site shows African Americans accounted for about 31% of the traffic stops statewide in the second half of 2020 and first part of 2021. Census data shows African Americans account for about 19% of the population.
"We need to know all of that because there is racial profiling, and we want to stop racial profiling and bias profiling," said Gaylene Kanoyton, the Vice President of Region 1 of the Virginia NAACP. "The whole thing is about building trust."
The issue drew national attention to our area when Windsor Police controversially pulled over an Army lieutenant late last year. The lieutenant is now suing, and the police department fired one of the officers involved.
The town has hired an outside company to review how officers handle traffic stops. Data from the site shows African Americans accounted for 44% of the traffic stops by Windsor Police officers.
"Data will show exactly the whole picture, so I think it's very important they maintain this data," said Kanoyton.
Still, Executive Director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police Dana Schrad says people shouldn't use the data to jump to conclusions.
"That's raw data. It has not been analyzed," she said.
The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services is currently writing an analysis of the data, which is expected to be completed soon. Schrad says the analysis will help provide a clearer understanding of what's going on.
She says the raw data doesn't provide definitive proof on whether a certain group is being proportionately puled over as there are many factors at play. In addition, she says some departments are also now voluntarily tracking whether the driver pulled over is a resident of the jurisdiction. That data would help show whether the traffic stop data matches the population of a jurisdiction.
"When an officer pulls someone over for a violation of the law, they have not been able to deduce in advance whether that individual is Black, white, Hispanic or whatever," said Schrad.