Fayetteville civil rights leaders weigh in on racial profiling l - WNCT

Fayetteville civil rights leaders weigh in on racial profiling law

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -

Civil rights leaders in Fayetteville are closely watching a new push to end legal racial profiling by police departments across the country.

Democrats in Washington want to make it illegal in the aftermath of George Zimmerman's murder trial.

Senators in the U.S. Senate proposed a bill in May that would ban racial profiling. Representatives in the U.S. House proposed a similar bill Tuesday.

The issue is of particular interest to many people in Fayetteville, especially after a report released in 2011 shows Fayetteville police stop and search a much higher percentage of blacks than whites. That is despite the fact that the percentage of blacks and whites in Fayetteville is nearly equal.

"By a three to one margin we're being stopped more," commented attorney James Locus on Wednesday. "I think that deals more with the issue of racial profiling than it does with bad driving or other bad habits."

Locus has represented clients who claim they are victims of profiling. He says it is an ongoing problem, but he feels better about how Chief Harold Medlock approaches it. Medlock started as the police department's chief in February, and he pledged to tackle concerns about racial profiling.

"From what I've seen is him trying to slow this train down, and he's taking what I believe are very positive steps to do so," Locus said.

Locus and Jimmy Buxton, the District Director of the NAACP support a federal law that would ban racial profiling, hold police accountable and train officers.

"It will help a lot of police chiefs to enforce what they've been saying for a long time," Buxton said.

"The federal legislation as it's proposed, is going to open the door for training and a better understanding of what racial profiling is," Locus said. "We need that, because without that law we don't have the same protections that everyone else has. Those number of three to one represent a need."

While some states have banned racial profiling, others allow it as a tool for police departments. Opponents say it is a prejudicial practice. Both men believe a federal law would not only help Fayetteville, but other towns across the country.

They admit the proposals by the U.S. House and Senate would face significant challenges.

"We should now be calling our congressmen to have them pass this law," Buxton said.

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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