- Associated Press - Thursday, December 17, 2015

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) - A social justice website launched Thursday offers the public a new tool for analyzing the role of race in about 15 years’ worth of North Carolina traffic stop data.

The site, www.opendatapolicingNC.com, allows users to access and interpret data on nearly 20 million traffic stops. Its main search feature allows a user to quickly call up data on individual law enforcement agencies around the state, with the information broken down by race or ethnicity and presented in graphs, charts and tables.

Another feature allows users to search for traffic stops by variables such as date, department and the age and race of the driver. Users can also analyze individual officers’ arrest patterns. While officers’ names aren’t included on the website, users can search by the unique ID number each one uses to report traffic stops.

The launch comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of police tactics around the country after fatal shootings by officers and other deaths in police custody.

The effort was led by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which has been analyzing patterns in law enforcement data for several years and sought an online tool to respond to numerous requests from community groups for help, said staff attorney Ian Mance. The site was built by developers led by the firm Caktus Group.

The data is collected under pioneering North Carolina laws that require each county sheriff and nearly all police departments, except some in sparsely populated areas, to record details about every traffic stop. A state website also allows users to search the data, but it presents data in different formats than the new nonprofit site.

Mance said North Carolina remains one of the few states to collect the data in such detail. The effort started under a 1999 law and later expanded.

Mance suggested that the site will be useful both to drivers and to police chiefs.

He said a driver who is suspicious that he was singled out because of race can look up the traffic stop, click through on the officer’s ID number and see if there are arrest patterns based on race.

“You might mention this to your attorney,” he said.

Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock attended the site launch Thursday and said it will help chiefs, supervisors and even patrol officers analyze data more easily.

“Over the last 15 years North Carolina has done a phenomenal job of collecting data, but … we don’t have a reasonable way to make any sense of that. It’s basically raw data,” he said.

The Fayetteville Police Department is working to implement reforms recommended by the Justice Department in a report released Wednesday. Medlock sought the review after becoming chief in 2013.

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