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TOP STORIES FROM 2023 | Lexi Solomon

Data shows Black drivers stopped, searched at much higher rate in Fayetteville


Editor's note: As 2023 winds down, CityView's reporters are reflecting on significant stories they covered during the year. Today, Lexi Solomon discusses research she did into traffic stop data — and the revelation that Black drivers were stopped, and searched, at a much higher rate than other races.


There’s no doubt in my mind which story I’m proudest to have written in 2023. It’s a story that I spent almost three months working on, encompassing hours of doing my least favorite thing in the world — math — and speaking with people with firsthand experience on the topic. 

That story went live on Dec. 7, revealing to Fayetteville residents how their police department searches Black male drivers almost six times as much as white male drivers during traffic stops, according to traffic stop data submitted to the State Bureau of Investigation by the Fayetteville Police Department. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the population in Fayetteville is 40.8% white and 42.5% Black.

For those who haven’t read my piece, here’s a quick breakdown of the most important data:

  • From Jan. 1 to Sept. 30 of this year, of the 19,915 male drivers stopped by the Fayetteville Police Department, 4.87% were searched. Of the 970 men searched, 81.24% were Black, 15.77% were white, 1.03% were Native American, 1.75% were Asian and 0.21% identified as “Other.” 
  • In September 2023 alone, of the 198 male drivers searched by the Fayetteville Police Department during traffic stops, 85.86% were Black, 12.63% were white, 0.51% were Native American and 1.01% were Asian.
  • From Jan. 1 to Sept. 30 of this year, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office only searched 18 male drivers during traffic stops, 27.78% of whom were white, 66.67% Black and 5.56% Native American.
  • Statewide, from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, of the 22,139 male drivers searched, 58.69% were Black, 37.99% were white, 0.41% were Native American, 0.67% were Asian and 2.24% identified as “Other.” 
  • During a second-quarter review presentation to the Fayetteville City Council on Aug. 28, Police Chief Kem Braden said that 77.4% of searches of Black drivers led to illegal contraband being found, while 65.26% of searches of white drivers turned up illegal contraband.
  • This year, through Sept. 30, the bulk of searches conducted by the Fayetteville Police Department were based on probable cause, comprising 1,249 of searches, while 78 were consent searches, 29 were protective frisks, 132 were related to an arrest and six were tied to an outstanding warrant.

Braden defended the numbers in an interview with me, stating his officers’ searches during traffic stops are always based on probable cause. He said he didn’t believe his officers were racially biased and challenged people to provide proof of racially biased policing tactics in his department.

Though that story was written in my previous role as the government watchdog reporter at The Fayetteville Observer, I’m looking forward to continuing to examine this issue in my new role at CityView in 2024. And if you have thoughts on the subject, please shoot me a message at lsolomon@cityviewnc.com. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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