GREENSBORO — City officials plan to spend more time each month studying police interactions with the public and regularly release data about how officers perform on the job.
Since George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police in May, these past months have been a time of reflection on police policies for the City Council. An internal memo sent late last week from the city manager to council members outlines some new ways the city and the public will be able to keep a closer eye on how police are handling encounters with citizens.
"These are some really good changes which will provide greater transparency and hopefully allow the city to identify and resolve potential issues even where persons are unwilling or hesitant to file formal complaints," said Justin Outling, who has been among several council members asking for the release of more police data.
City Manager David Parrish wrote in a memo to council members that the city will be taking three steps to better evaluate the interactions of police officers with the public.
First, someone from the Greensboro Criminal Justice Advisory Commission, a citizens review board, will regularly analyze at random nine police interactions with citizens involving traffic stops, complaints and searches.
Second, the city will open an online portal for people to give their impressions of police action without the burden of filing a formal complaint.
"This will allow another avenue for residents and visitors to communicate with the city on their experiences and encounters with GPD," Parrish wrote to council members.
Finally, the city will offer an online "dashboard" of data about police encounters with residents, ranging from traffic stops to use of force.
Parrish said the information will also be linked to a mapping system to allow the public to see where these incidents occur in the city.
Outling said late last week the random review of police interactions was partly inspired by a June incident in which a Black teen was stopped by officers on the Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway. Police were told to look for a person who had reportedly been walking along Battleground Avenue with a toy gun. He was wearing a black T-shirt, blue jeans and described as Hispanic or "dark-skinned."
The only description that applied to the teen was his dark skin.
Outling heard about the incident because of community discussion on social media and intervened. That rarely happens in other cases, he said, and most people are reluctant to file formal complaints with the police.
By providing these new steps, Outling said there will be more transparency in showing how police are doing their jobs.
That's something local activist groups such as Greensboro Rising, the NAACP and others have repeatedly demanded as the actions of police departments nationwide are now under greater scrutiny.