The Greensboro City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday, June 2 to hold a work session within two weeks on the police policy on descriptions of people stopped as a result of calls to 911.
Councilmember Justin Outling made the motion, “that within the next two weeks we have a work session virtually where the city manager, the Police Department and staff advises us on the policies, procedures and any possible improvements to ensure that not only are we being fair but we are not subjecting our entire community to stops and enhanced risks when we can avoid it by simply requesting additional information.”
The motion is the response to an event that occurred on the Bicentennial Greenway in May. In that instance, Greensboro police officers stopped a black male high school student who was running with his uncle on the Greenway and searched and questioned him in response to a 911 call about someone on the Greenway pointing what appeared to the caller to be a toy gun at cars.
Outling said that the caller to 911 provided, “Almost no information beyond the clothing, the race and the object that it was suspected the person was holding.”
After the student was stopped and his parents and others were trying to figure out why, Outling said he was told it was because the young man met the racial description, black, and that was considered enough.
Outling said if that is indeed the policy, that “Greensboro could have a scenario in which based on a single description” the police would be justified in stopping his 9-year-old son, Outling himself and his grandfather because they would meet the racial description although the three obviously have many other very different physical characteristics.
Outling said, “Are we uniquely stopping persons of color, black children, when we otherwise wouldn’t do that for other children in our community.”
He said, “We need to make sure that we do right for all of our community.”
Outling has often asked for work sessions on topics, has been assured they would be held but they never were. In this case, Outling made the motion and the City Council voted unanimously to hold the work session he requested, but only time will tell if that work session is every held.