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CNN Special Reports
CNN Special Report: "Traffic Stop: Dangerous Encounters". Aired 9-10p ET
Aired January 28, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Photography helps me look at the world in a more creative way. It expresses me in ways I cannot write down for people. I hope to one day let people see what I see and to hopefully admire my work based on the quality and ideals of my work.
So on that note, enjoy my page and let me know what you think. Your friend, Tyre D. Nichols.
Tyre Nichols was 29 years old. And we are admiring your work, Tyre.
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SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The videos are disturbing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't pull it out.
PHILANDO CASTILE, BLACK MAN FATALLY SHOT DURING TRAFFIC STOP: I'm not.
SIDNER (voice-over): Their names are well known.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will fight for Philando.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Say his name.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): Daunte Wright.
SIDNER (voice-over): Traffic stops where drivers pay the ultimate price.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shots fired. Subject is down.
SIDNER (voice-over): In a system --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on.
SIDNER (voice-over): -- fraught with bias.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the car. FRANK BAUMGARTNER, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA CHAPEL HILL: With black men, it's like four times more likely than a white man to be searched.
SIDNER (voice-over): How did we get here?
(on-camera): Are you still trained to traffic stops are one of the most dangerous things that can happen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are. Because they actually are.
SIDNER (voice-over): But these stops can exact a huge cost on the black community. Physically --
(on-camera): What is this done to you?
STEPHANIE BOTTOM, ACCUSES POLICE OF TEARING HER: I can only move my arm this far.
SIDNER (voice-over): Emotionally --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the humiliation that always stays with you.
SIDNER (voice-over): And financially.
(on-camera): How much money have you paid in fines and fees?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over $10,000.
SIDNER (voice-over): Tonight, the problem and some controversial reforms.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the car.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't believe you need somebody with a gun to pull somebody over in a traffic stop.
JOE GAMALDI, FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: Unarmed citizens doing traffic stops, horrible idea.
SIDNER (voice-over): A CNN Special Report, "Traffic Stop: Dangerous Encounters."
BOTTOM: I'm traveler, I always have been. I love to get in my car and go.
SIDNER (on-camera): You're that grandma, OK?
SIDNER (on-camera): The one nobody can keep up with.
(voice-over): Stephanie Bottom of Atlanta is a 69-year-old librarian, mother of two, grandmother of five, and lover of road trips.
In May of 2019, she took to the open road, driving north on I-85 from Georgia to North Carolina for a funeral. She was driving solo with just her music to keep her company.
BOTTOM: It was either Santana or Prince.
SIDNER (on-camera): So this is good driving music, isn't it?
SIDNER (on-camera): What point did you even notice there were police trailing you?
BOTTOM: It was a while before I realized it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why dude? Fucking stupid.
BOTTOM: I didn't hear any sirens or anything. So I just kept driving and listening to my music.
SIDNER (voice-over): The lights and sirens had been on for at least 10 minutes.
BOTTOM: I haven't been really paying any attention to the lights until the officer came up on the side of me. I looked over at him and I asked, you know, what's going on. And was like --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the fuck are you looking at woman?
BOTTOM: And then I look back and then I saw police cars behind me and I'm like, are they after me? So in essence, so welcome to get to an exit where I can be around lights and people because I've heard too many horror stories of people of color being brutalized or killed by police officers.
SIDNER (voice-over): The officers tossed spikes, which punctured her tires and made her pull over to the left immediately.
BOTTOM: Two of them grabbed my arm and my hair and threw me on the ground.
SIDNER (on-camera): By your hair?
BOTTOM: Both of my arms and my hair.
SIDNER (voice-over): At this point, the officers are trying to get Bottom's wrist handcuffed together.
BOTTOM: They were twisting and twisting and twisting and then swoop, pop.
SIDNER (voice-over): She would learn later that her rotator cuff was torn and her shoulder dislocated.
BOTTOM: Terrible, terrible pain.
Help me. Please. SIDNER (on-camera): Now they have you on the ground. What are you thinking?
BOTTOM: I thought that I was going to be dead soon. They were going to kill me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ma'am, you're under arrest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good gosh.
BOTTOM: What did I do wrong?
SIDNER (voice-over): What Bottom had done wrong was drive about 10 miles over the speed limit and fail to stop for the blue light. For that, she was injured.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to stand you up, OK? You're going to sit there, then.
BOTTOM: It hurts.
SIDNER (voice-over): Searched.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lean up against your car.
SIDNER (voice-over): And nearly arrested, but she did not go to jail. She went to the hospital instead after paramedics arrived and determined she had a dislocated shoulder.
(on-camera): Some folks are going to look at that and say, well, I guess she deserved what she got. What do you say to people?
SCOTT HOLMES, SUPERVISING ATTORNEY, NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL UNIVERSITY'S CIVIL LITIGATION CLINIC: All she did was get confused and not pull over fast enough. If you were sentenced for failure to heed blue lights, the punishment is a fine, not getting yanked out of the car by your hair and thrown to the ground and having your shoulder dislocated.
SIDNER (voice-over): Scott Holmes is the supervising attorney of North Carolina Central University's Civil Litigation Clinic and one of Bottom's attorneys. He'd later discovered Bottom was charged in the incident.
HOLMES: She was charged with speeding, 10 over and failure to heed blue lights and resisting an officer.
SIDNER (on-camera): Why do you think they treated you this way?
BOTTOM: Really? Really?
SIDNER (on-camera): Really? Real talk. BOTTOM: Old black woman. And because of the fact that I did not stop right away. I truly believe that if I was white, I wouldn't have been treated that way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you refuse to stop --
SIDNER (voice-over): It was a traffic stop of a black person like many you've heard about in the news over the past several years.
The most recent one that is putting this issue in the headlines once again is this video. We warn you it is disturbing. It's a Memphis police beating 29-year-old Tyre Nichols earlier this month.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch out. Watch out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch out.
TYRE NICHOLS: Mom.
SIDNER (voice-over): While trying to arrest him following a stop for alleged reckless driving. But five officers have now been charged for murder. The D.A. tells CNN they beat him to death.
There's the case of 20-year-old Daunte Wright. Initially pulled over outside Minneapolis for a minor violation, an air freshener hanging on his rear-view mirror and an expired tag.
Wright tried to flee when officers tried to arrest him for an outstanding warrant.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jesus! Jesus!
SIDNER (voice-over): It ended in his death. He was shot by an officer who says she confused her gun for her taser.
Also near Minneapolis, an officer killed Philando Castile after pulling him over for a minor traffic violation. A broken taillight. His girlfriend said Castile reached for his identification and inform the officer that he had a gun which he had a legal permit to carry. But the officer claimed Castile's hand was on the gun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't pull it out.
P. CASTILE: I'm not pulling out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't pull it out.
P. CASTILE: I'm not.
SIDNER (voice-over): Then there was Walter Scott, pulled over for a busted taillight. He ran.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1080 on foot. Black male, green shirt.
SIDNER (voice-over): An officer shot him in the back, killing him. The officer pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to 20 years for depriving Scott of his civil rights, a federal charge. Army Officer Caron Nazario was terrified.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the car.
SIDNER (voice-over): When two officers in Southern Virginia approached his SUV with guns drawn during a traffic stop.
CARON NAZARIO, PEPPER SPRAYED BY POLICE DURING TRAFFIC STOP: What's going on?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going on is you're fixing to ride the lightning, son.
SIDNER (voice-over): The officers reported they didn't see the temporary paper tag in Nazario's car.
NAZARIO: I'm honestly afraid to get out.
SIDNER (voice-over): He was pepper sprayed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the car.
SIDNER (voice-over): Nazario survived.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take your seatbelt off again.
SIDNER (voice-over): One of officers was fired. And Nazario is sued for $1 million in damages. But jurors awarded him less than four grant, his attorney has requested a new trial. About 50,000 of us drivers in the US get stopped each and every day. That's about 20 million per year. It's the most common civilian police interaction. But it is more common for black folks, and potentially more dangerous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the car now.
SIDNER (voice-over): One of the officers was fired but Virginia's Attorney General is now suing the city alleging that police practice discrimination against black drivers.
SIDNER: About 50,000 of us drivers in the U.S. get stopped each and every day. That's about 20 million per year. It's the most common civilian police interaction. But it is more common for black folks, and potentially more dangerous.
BAUMGARTNER: My best estimate is that a black person getting into a car is twice as likely to be pulled over as a white person. Roughly speaking.
SIDNER (voice-over): Professor Frank Baumgartner at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill is an expert on traffic stops. He's analyzed 20 million of them in North Carolina alone. He says the disparities are even more pronounced when it comes to searches.
BAUMGARTNER: Once pulled over, that's a double whammy. Gives you a four times greater likelihood of being searched, just being black.
SIDNER (on-camera): You've probably heard the phrase driving while black. It's a common refrain in the black community. But now, we have cold hard statistics that bear it out. So we wanted to know how did we get to a place where if you're black, you're more likely to be pulled over and searched.
IAN MANCE, HOLMES CO-COUNSEL IN BOTTOM CASE: Black and white motorists are on very different footing when they get on the road in terms of the risks that they face.
SIDNER (voice-over): Holmes co-counsel in the Bottom case, Ian Mance, gave us a look at some of North Carolina's traffic stop data. We took a look at the data reported by the police in Salisbury, North Carolina where Stephanie Bottom was stopped. White population is nearly 50 percent. The black population is 37.5 percent. The rest is a mix of Hispanic, Asian, Native American and other.
The recorded stops reflect the demographic makeup of the population. They're roughly even. But when you zero in on what happens after the traffic stop --
MANCE: If we get down to searches, we do see that there's a pretty significant jump here.
SIDNER (voice-over): About 60 percent of the people searched were black. 34.7 of those searches were white, and 62.5 percent of those who had Salisbury officers use force on them following a traffic stop were black, less than 30 percent were white.
North Carolina has mandated statewide collection of traffic stop data since 2000. And that data from law enforcement shows a similar story across the entire state. Take Charlotte, for example, the state's largest city. Black folks are 34.5 percent of the population. But more than 51 percent of the stops, about 70 percent of the searches and nearly 78 percent of the drivers on whom officers use force following a traffic stop.
According to this 2017 paper by Baumgartner and his colleagues examining hundreds of police departments, they found similar behavior toward black and brown folks across 16 states.
BAUMGARTNER: At least 99 percent of them had a higher rate of search for black drivers compared to white drivers. So it's not like it's just in the South, it's just in rural areas, it's just an urban areas. Now, this is ubiquitous throughout the United States.
SIDNER (voice-over): So how do we get here? Turns out the answer is guns, drugs and money.
OMI O'COLLEY, RESIDENT: They were making lots and lots of money on ticket revenue.
SIDNER (voice-over): That's ahead.
SIDNER (voice-over): Outside the twin cities, near the site of the annual Minnesota State Fair, is a simple memorial for a quiet man who after his death has been making a lot of noise, Philando Divall Castile.
VALERIE CASTILE, PHILANDO CASTILE'S MOTHER: He was a loving, caring young man. He started working when he was 13 years old. He asked me for $100 pair of sneakers and I told him he needed to go get a job. And which he did.
SIDNER (voice-over): When he died just days before his 33rd birthday, Philando Castile was working as a school cafeteria supervisor, a job he loved.
V. CASTILE: He was more than just the supervisor. He was a role model. He knew all those children bad names and their allergies.
SIDNER (voice-over): He also would help some children pay for their lunches.
V. CASTILE: My son cared about people.
SIDNER (voice-over): Philando Castile was killed in July of 2016, just hours after he stopped by his mother's house for a short visit.
V. CASTILE: I say, you know your mama love you, and I gave him a big hug (ph) and he left.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reason I pulled you over is your brake lights are out. Do you have your license and insurance?
SIDNER (voice-over): Castile had a legal permit to carry.
P. CASTILE: I do have --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
P. CASTILE: -- a firearm on me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't reach for it them.
P. CASTILE: I'm --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't pull it out.
P. CASTILE: I'm happy to (INAUDIBLE).
SIDNER (voice-over): When Castile reached for his identification.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't pull it out.
P. CASTILE: I'm not.
SIDNER (voice-over): The officer who claimed he saw Castile's his hand on his gun reacted, lightning fast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't pull it out.
V. CASTILE: I woke up to my daughter crying and screaming that he was on Facebook dying.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was reaching for his wallet. And the officer just shot him in his arm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You told not to reach for it, and I told to get his hand up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had -- you told him to get his ID, sir. His driver's license. Oh my God, please don't tell me he's dead.
V. CASTILE: I can tell you I knew when my son passed. I had that feeling like you -- when you give him birth, when I started having those contractions, I knew that he was suffering, that he was trying to live. And when the contractions stopped, I knew he was dead.
SIDNER (voice-over): That night, he was stopped for a broken taillight, a minor traffic infraction, something that had happened to him more than 52 times since 2002.
(on-camera): Why do you think your son was stopped so many times?
V. CASTILE: Because he was polite. Because he was black. I mean, nobody can be that unlucky. And nobody is that horrible of a driver. It wasn't he ran a stop sign or he was in a car accident. It's none of that. Is what they call now pretexts stops.
BAUMGARTNER: For the most part, equipment violations are often used as a pretext to pull somebody over tends to be people on the poor side of town. And oftentimes it's minorities. Those are stops where the officer first decided that they want to have a conversation with the driver. And second, figured out a way to pull them over.
SIDNER (on-camera): And when you say conversation, you're talking about an investigation?
BAUMGARTNER: A conversation goes like this. Do you know why I pulled you over? No, sir, I have no idea. You made an illegal right turn. I did? Yes, sir. Do you have any guns in the car? Are you carrying any drugs? Do you mind if I search the car?
SIDNER (voice-over): Police officials tell us pre-textual traffic stops became a common tool used by police to search for drugs and guns. And in 1996, the Supreme Court ruled it did not violate the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable seizures. Experts say finding the initial reason to pull someone over is easy.
BAUMGARTNER: And there's 500 aspects of the travel code in North Carolina between the traffic code and the vehicle code.
SIDNER (voice-over): It's not just North Carolina that became quickly apparent during an afternoon with an officer of the Oakland California Police Department.
SGT. GEDAM GEBREMICHAEL, OAKLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT: This an Infiniti that drove by and has a bumper that's loose, that's a vehicle code violation. All lights must work, right? So his top brake light does not work. So I can stop him for that.
SIDNER (voice-over): There are 18,000 police departments across the U.S. and no standards for which violators to pull over.
(on-camera): Are you still trained at traffic stops are one of the most dangerous things that can happen?
GEBREMICHAEL: You are. You definitely are. You may stop somebody for what you believe is that the typical what, broken taillight and you don't know they just shot somebody. You have to remember that there's guns in the streets.
SIDNER (voice-over): The OPD pulled nearly 1,200 guns off the street last year alone.
GEBREMICHAEL: So that's always in the top of your head.
GAMALDI: Traffic stops are inherently dangerous. I would say that next to a domestic violence call where obviously tempers are certainly flaring. A traffic stop is a very, very dangerous situation.
SIDNER (voice-over): That's Joe Gamaldi of the Fraternal Order of Police, who says officers are trained to be prepared for the worst.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) gun down.
SIDNER (voice-over): Such as this 1998 killing of a sheriff's deputy by a driver pulled over for speeding in central Georgia. This New Mexico State Police officer was murdered in February of 2021 after he pulled over a driver as part of a homeland security investigation.
Overall, not just during traffic stops, 73 officers were intentionally killed in 2021, according to the FBI. At least 55 by guns.
SIDNER: But police officer deaths during traffic stops are rare. A 2019 study out of the University of Arkansas examined thousands of police-initiated traffic stops in Florida over a 10-year period. And it found that one officer is killed out of every 6.5 million stops. An officer is seriously injured in one out of about every 360,000 stops.
Put another way, 98 percent of traffic stops resulted in no injuries to an officer or minor injuries, according to the study. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
SIDNER (voice-over): Another study, this one from 2017, suggests pre- textual stops do not help prevent crime. Researchers looked at equipment and registration violation stops in Nashville over a seven- year period. They found no relationship between the number of those stops in Nashville and the rate of crime there.
BAUMGARTNER: I've talked a lot of police chiefs.
SIDNER (voice-over): On top of all this, Frank Baumgartner, the UNC Chapel Hill researcher says these types of stops do not net police a lot of guns or drugs.
BAUMGARTNER: I found they only find contraband about one quarter of the time. That means three quarters of the people are searched fruitlessly.
SIDNER (voice-over): We now know Philando Castile was a pre-textual stop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to stop the car. I'm going to check IDs. I have reason to pull over. The driver looks more like one of our suspects just because of the wide set nose.
SIDNER (voice-over): Five years later, and about 20 miles northwest of where Castile was killed, another black man was killed during a traffic stop. 20-year-old Daunte Wright, a young father.
KATIE BRYANT, DAUNTE WRIGHT'S MOTHER: I was on the phone with them during some of the incident. He called me because he was being pulled over. He said, mama, I have been pulled over. I said for what? And he said because he had an air freshener and his rearview mirror.
SIDNER (on-camera): Do you think that's a legitimate reason for police officers to pull someone over?
BRYANT: No. To be pulled over for minor traffic stuff, it's systemic racism. It's a way for police officers to have a reasoning to pull somebody over and it ends up in death or incarceration that doesn't need to have happen.
SIDNER (voice-over): Once police learned Wright had a warrant --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You had a warrant.
SIDNER (voice-over): -- they tried to arrest him. Wright tried to flee.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just shot him. SIDNER (on-camera): What were your hopes and dreams for Daunte? What did you hope for him?
BRYANT: To get married one day. To watch him praise his son. To become successful. He didn't have that opportunity.
SIDNER (voice-over): Up next, will ticket for money.
O'COLLEY: Welcome Beverley Hill. It's not the one with the Hollywood. We're about to hit Pine Lawn.
SIDNER (voice-over): This is St. Louis County, Missouri.
O'COLLEY: And now we're out of Pine Lawn. And we're going to go to Oakland parks.
SIDNER (voice-over): It's made up of about 90 different municipalities.
O'COLLEY: Now we're in Normandy. It just changed. Thank you. Now we're Normandy.
SIDNER (on-camera): I feel like this is every half mile or half mile.
SIDNER (voice-over): Omi O'Colley (ph), a lifetime resident gave us a tour. We've come here because traffic stops aren't always about safety or hunting contraband or crime. Some cities use traffic stops to raise money. This New York Times analysis tells it best. There are more than 730 municipalities across the U.S. that depend on tickets and fees for at least 10 percent of their revenue.
(on-camera): These are relatively small cities, right?
O'COLLEY: But they were making lots and lots of money on ticket revenue because they had to because it's not coming from property taxes.
SIDNER (voice-over): She says were because it has gotten better in the last few years. We'll get to that part of the story in just a bit.
(on-camera): How many times have you been stopped?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm in St. Louis, I don't keep counting that.
SIDNER (on-camera): Five? 10?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People -- 10 was the minimum number of times I've been locked up. So take that and double it. I've been stopped no less than 20 times.
SIDNER (voice-over): Locked up for failing to pay traffic tickets. For things like not having her car registered, not having insurance or driving with a revoked license.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had two kids in private school, single parent, making $30,000 a year. So if I had to pay tuition and couldn't pay my traffic tickets, I paid tuition. I had to pay the rent. I paid the rent.
SIDNER (voice-over): So let me make sure I have the straight. So you get a ticket for not having your registration done. Then what happens?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you don't have the money to pay the fine, you can go to court. When you go to court, they'll tell you court costs ticket plus fees that, da, da, da, da, da, you now owe $300. You have $300 to pay today. No. All right, put you on payment plan.
So everyone come see us and pay this by the 21st. If not, they issue you a warrant on the 22nd. Make your payments on time.
SIDNER (on-camera): OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So let's say you don't make that payment, you get a warrant. It's what do you do. If you have the resources you can pay, but most people don't have the resources. So you just, you run. And catch me if you can.
SIDNER (on-camera): How many warrants did you rack up?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At one point in time, I was warrant at 11 different municipalities.
SIDNER (on-camera): Eleven municipalities. How did you live with that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Carefully with humor, on wing and a prayer.
SIDNER (voice-over): And if you were on the roads, it seems nearly impossible not to get caught.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So if you get picked up by any municipality in St. Louis, once they picked you up, they also ran your name to the system. If you were warrant anywhere else, you didn't go home, you went to all those places first to make arrangements for your life before you can go home.
I had parental support. I had someone to go and check on how much I owed into municipalities. I had someone that could borrow money from to pay to help me get out of jail. Other people sit right next to me and get their list of places to go and just have to wait it out because they had no other options of how they could get home.
SIDNER (on camera): How much money have you paid in fines and fees?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over $10,000.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over.
SIDNER (voice-over): The practice went on for years before the Department of Justice exposed it nationally in their 2015 report on the Ferguson Missouri Police Department saying the department's policing reinforces racial bias. And its officers saw people as potential offenders and sources of revenue. The report follow the uprisings and the response to the police killing of Michael Brown there.
FORMER MAYOR JAMES KNOWLES III, FERGUSON, MISSOURI: We must do better not only as a city, but as a state as a country. We must all work to address issues of racial disparity in all aspects of society.
BLAKE STRODE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ARCHCITY DEFENDERS: We have 50 Ferguson's in St. Louis. Many of those municipalities have been using poor black residents as ATM machines for years.
SIDNER (voice-over): Blake Strode runs ArchCity Defenders, a nonprofit law firm in St. Louis.
(on camera): So you're saying impoverished black folks, we're paying a special tax in the form of tickets, court fines, bond.
SIDNER (voice-over): Around the same time of the DOJ Ferguson report, Strode's group began suing some of the municipalities. There were seven suits filed in total, three have been settled.
(on-camera): What were you suing over?
STRODE: The basic claim is that it is unconstitutional to treat people with money differently than people without money. If you have money, you pay a ticket, you're done. If you don't, then you have to go through this sort of Kafkaesque process of warrants and arrest.
SIDNER (voice-over): The state also passed a bill making it difficult to force payments from people who don't have the money. Following all this, the numbers dropped dramatically. For instance, take St. Ann, one of the municipalities ArchCity Defenders is suing. The city has denied any wrongdoing and believes its traffic enforcement, reduced accidents and did not racially profiled drivers. In 2014, St. Ann brought in about $3.3 million from fines and fees. By 2019, it was $426,000, an 87 percent drop.
(on camera): Are these numbers pretty consistent that many of them have dropped about 80 to 90 percent?
STRODE: Yes, but at the high end, 80, 90 percent. There are some that are more like 50, 60 percent.
SIDNER (voice-over): So there is massive improvement. But let's give it some context.
STRODE: In Ferguson, in 2014, there were 33,000 warrants in a city of about 22,000 people, so more --
SIDNER (on camera): More warrants than people?
STRODE: More warrants than people. And that's come down significantly. In 2019, there were just under 4,000 warrants. Now that's a huge drop. Still quite high, though, when you think about the fact that that's, you know, maybe just under a fifth of the population that is at risk of being arrested at any moment in time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had to pray and meditate more. For justice for those who seek. You got to find a way to find peace. So I created a space within my house that I call the sanctuary, a way to sit and try to make magic out of mess.
SIDNER (voice-over): But she wants more than that. It's why she has a lead plaintiff in two of ArchCity's remaining six lawsuits. Another suit where she is named has been settled, and Oakley did receive some money.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like for them to say you were correct, our behave in the passive have deferrable, two, this is what we're going to do to help create a chain.
SIDNER (voice-over): Easier said than done, and she knows it, which is why she still has her sanctuary and prayer.
Ahead, we had to Oakland where they don't do traffic stops like they used to.
SGT. GEDAM GEBREMICHAEL, OAKLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT: This vehicle that passed us, they don't have both license plates.
SIDNER (on camera): So technically, you could have pulled those guys over.
SIDNER (voice-over): But the police sergeant didn't pull anyone over because this is Oakland, California. And the way the department does traffic stops has changed.
(on camera): What were the tactics like back in the day?
LERONNE ARMSTRONG, OAKLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT CHIEF: When we would have crime spikes in Oakland, we would be given a direction to stop everything moving. That meant essentially, every vehicle that you could find a vehicle code violation for you stop that vehicle and take enforcement action. It was the belief at that time that that would reduce crime. It didn't reduce crime because it didn't focus on those who were driving crime. SIDNER (on-camera): What did it do?
ARMSTRONG: We eroded trust in our communities like we didn't know at the time.
We just advised that we just had our 10 homicide.
SIDNER (voice-over): LeRonne Armstrong is a 24-year veteran of the Oakland Police Department, chief now for two years. He's helped lead the transition away from large scale pretextual stops after a 2016 Stanford study highlighted racial disparities by the force in a city that's about 25 percent, black and 25 percent Brown.
(on camera): They looked at 28,000 traffic stops over a year's time. And what they found was one in four black men were handcuffed compared to one in 15 white men, and that about 60 percent of those folks that were stopped, were black folks. Plain and simple, are we talking about racial profiling here?
ARMSTRONG: I think what we're talking about is a policing strategy that impacted communities of color more than anyone else.
SIDNER (voice-over): It was that way for decades. According to Ersie Joyner, an Oakland native and former OPD captain, I met him more than a decade ago, when I lived and worked here.
(on camera): How do you think racism shows itself in policing?
ERSIE JOYNER, FORMER OAKLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT CAPTAIN: I think that racism biases play a huge role in terms of decision making when you have officers out on the field. Oftentimes, when you're out policing in underserved communities, that's how you get more people of color actually stopped. And it's almost like shooting fish in a barrel, because there are going to be so many different violations that the officer is within the law of exercising, but would he or she do the same thing of the person was white? And my answer is no.
ARMSTRONG: What we're trying to do is get away from the old practice of saturating areas with police officers, and stopping everybody you can until you find the right person.
SIDNER (voice-over): They try to stop specific types of vehicles that show up in pictures and videos of crime scenes.
(on camera): So you're getting real time information coming in as you're working.
GEBREMICHAEL: That's correct.
SIDNER (voice-over): That's what happened shortly after we stopped by the scene of a shooting at a gas station.
GEBREMICHAEL: So this information was sent out as the actual suspect vehicle from the shooting right now.
(on camera): Oh, wow. This -- I mean just happened and you've already got the suspect vehicle.
GEBREMICHAEL: Exactly. So now throughout the day, I'm actually looking for this car. If I see a Cadillac, the first thing I'm going to do is pull up this picture.
SIDNER (voice-over): And as we drive, he does just that.
GEBREMICHAEL: Well, look at that photo. That one has a spoiler, this one doesn't.
SIDNER (voice-over): So no stop. A short time later, we spot another Cadillac parked, plate stripped, nobody inside.
(on camera): Look. Look at there's a hat. It looks exactly the same.
GEBREMICHAEL: OK. Let's see.
SIDNER: Are those bullet holes?
GEBREMICHAEL: I think you need to be a detective.
SIDNER (voice-over): It turned out to be the alleged shooters car.
ARMSTRONG: We have reduced the number of overall stops by nearly 60 percent. And that's intentional. We need to stop, stop in making traffic stops that are not actually meeting our overall goal, which is reducing violent crime.
SIDNER (voice-over): Ending stops that don't reduce crime, but do cause trauma and increase distrust of police is the goal of a brand- new law in Philadelphia.
ISAIAH THOMAS, MEMBER OF PHILADELPHIA CITY COUNCIL: I'm extremely excited to be able to introduce this ordinance today.
SIDNER (voice-over): In June, freshmen City Councilman Isaiah Thomas introduced a bill that turns a handful of traffic infractions like minor bumper damage or items hanging from a rear view mirror into secondary violations, which means a driver cannot be stopped for them alone.
THOMAS: I've been stopped in the city of Philadelphia more times than I can remember, well over 20 times.
SIDNER (voice-over): He says one of the most humiliating happened here as a recent college grad.
THOMAS: We are in the Northwest section of Philadelphia.
So I remember the officers saying, you know, you look guilty, get out the car, and they never talked about a traffic violation. So they searched me. And I think that's the part that kind of gets dismissed is when they searched us, right? It's a very aggressive church, so they check in between your butt cheeks, they check in, you know, underneath your testicles, and they're seeing if you have drugs there. And then they put me in handcuffs and they put me in the back of the car. Didn't they search the entire car looking for guns and drugs. Somebody called in for another crime and they ended up letting me out of the car and just speeding off. I'm a working man with a college degree who didn't do anything wrong. I mean, what it does to your pride and your self-esteem in the moment, like you just can't get that back.
SIDNER (voice-over): His experiences and the experiences of his friends led him to push for the driving equality bill, which goes into effect in early 2022. Thomas had high hopes for it when we interviewed him just before the law went into effect.
THOMAS: We're looking at hopefully around 100,000 less traffic stops a year.
SIDNER (voice-over): That's important to Thomas because he says those stops take a large toll on black drivers with a very small, nearly non-existent return for the city.
THOMAS: We know that in the city of Philadelphia, the year where we examine over 300,000 motor vehicle stops less than 1 percent of the time that that stop and that search lead to some type of contraband or an illegal weapon.
SIDNER (voice-over): That figure comes from the Defender Association in Philadelphia, a city dealing with a rise in violent crime.
DANIELLE OUTLAW, COMMISSIONER, PHILADELPHIA POLICE DEPARTMENT: I will tell you this is not ideal timing.
SIDNER (voice-over): Philadelphia's police commissioner on the city's new law up next.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A chilling cry for help, a 55-year-old woman running for her life before --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One homicides too many.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The city hasn't seen a staggering statistic like this since 1990.
SIDNER (voice-over): Days after Councilman Thomas helped pass the driving equality bill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The (INAUDIBLE) credit or you are permitted, the bill passes.
SIDNER (voice-over): The city passed a horrific milestone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A mother in South Philadelphia gunned down in the streets. Police say her husband pulled the trigger, making her the city's 500 homicide victim in 2021.
SIDNER (voice-over): Five hundred homicides, making it the deadliest year on record in the city of brotherly love. It would climb above 550 before years end.
OUTLAW: I will tell you one of my thoughts was that no this is not ideal timing. This is not ideal timing.
SIDNER (voice-over): We interviewed Philadelphia's police commissioner, Danielle outlaw, just prior to the law taking effect, who told us it was not the ideal time for the driving equality bill because of high crime and reduced staff.
OUTLAW: We don't have the same staffing numbers that we had last year, a year ago, let alone five years ago, and then we're introducing this operational change. My thing is what can we do now to get ahead of criminals having the perception that they can go and do whatever they want. We're not ceasing police work. I can't be any clearer that addressing violent crime is our number one priority. The only difference with this is saying it cannot be the primary reason that I pulled you over.
SIDNER (voice-over): The bill makes eight violations, secondary violations, past due emissions and inspection stickers, late registration, minor bumper damage, having one taillight out, relocation of a license plate, items hanging from the rearview mirror, wrong location for window permits, and it contains a data component.
THOMAS: So we can assess the progress of the bill, six months, one year, 18 months in.
SIDNER (voice-over): The steps in Philadelphia are incremental, limited changes designed with the hope they produce big impact. In Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Daunte Wright's hometown, changes, if implemented, will be big, very big.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The motion passes four-one.
SIDNER (voice-over): The goal of a resolution passed in May is to transform the way the city of 34,000 is policed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I truly believe that if this was implemented prior to April 11th, our son would still be here with us today.
SIDNER (voice-over): We interview Brooklyn senators then Mayor Mike Elliott and Councilwoman Marquita Butler as they push for the changes. One main piece is police would no longer answer mental health calls.
MARQUITA BUTLER, COUNCILMEMBER: When calls come around mental health, it'd be routed to a different department to handle those calls and trained professionals. Mental health professionals will be responding to those calls.
SIDNER (voice-over): And low-level traffic enforcement would also be handled by a new and an armed department outside the police department.
MAYOR MIKE ELLIOTT, BROOKLYN CENTER: I don't believe that you need somebody with a gun to pull somebody over in a traffic stop.
JOE GAMALDI, VICE PRESIDENT, FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: We're not even enforcing the laws that we have on the books right now.
SIDNER (voice-over): Some police unions believe that is dangerous and are strongly opposed.
GAMALDI: Unarmed citizens doing traffic stops, horrible idea. And I would advise them do not do that. When you stop someone for, you know, an equipment violation, you don't know if they just robbed a bank if they're wanted for murder.
SIDNER (voice-over): Three Minnesota law enforcement groups wrote a letter to the mayor and city council arguing it was quote, misguided, and the changes will make the city less safe.
ELLIOTT: We are determined to make it happen. Our community book very loud and clear. And they said enough is enough.
SIDNER (voice-over): Elliot is no longer mayor and the resolution has not yet been turned into enforceable city ordinances. The committee is making recommendations for those ordinances hope to present them to the city council before the end of spring. The council would then need to vote on them.
The officer who touched off the current debate on policing in Brooklyn Center.
KIMBERLY POTTER, FORMER POLICE OFFICER: I shot him. Oh, my god.
SIDNER (voice-over): When she shot Daunte Wright instead of tasing him, now stands convicted of first and second-degree manslaughter for his death.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I find the defendant guilty.
Kimberly Potter was sentenced to two years in prison in February of 2022.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to thank community support, everybody who's been out there that has supported us in this long fight for accountability.
SIDNER (voice-over): Valerie Castile, Philando's mom says she never got the accountability she wanted. The officer who shot her son testified he did it because he saw Castile's hand on a gun and thought he was going to die. Castile's gun which he had a license permit to carry was in his pocket and loaded according to prosecutors. The officer was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter back in 2017.
VALERIE CASTILE, PHILANDO'S MOTHER: He will have to face his creator and I hope he die tonight. I meant that. I mean that. Still to this day, that man took something from me, that God gave me. You had no right. You had no right to take him from me. And I hope he die tonight.
SIDNER (on camera): You often hear people saying forgiveness is the only way forward.
CASTILE: Oh please. Forgiveness is overrated. That's not my job. I'm not God.
SIDNER (voice-over): Remember, 70-year-old Stephanie Bottom?
STEPHANIE BOTTOM, FILES LAWSUIT FOR POLICE OFFICERS: There's still no understanding as to why they did what they did to me. I showed her --
SIDNER (voice-over): Since the incident. She's had surgery to repair her shoulder.
(on camera): What is this done to you? Why don't you have dreads anymore?
BOTTOM: Well, for one reason I can only move my arm this far this way and this far that way so I can't really do my hair. But looking in the mirror when I see my dress, it just brings back bad memories.
SIDNER (voice-over): The criminal case against Bottom has been closed.
SCOTT HOLMES, BOTTOM'S ATTORNEY: The district attorney offered to let her plead guilty to failure to heat blue lights in exchange for dismissing the speeding and the resisting and so she took that and paid a fine and court cost.
SIDNER (voice-over): And Bottom has now filed her own suit, suing two Salisbury police officers and the city of Salisbury, North Carolina as well as a Rowan County deputy and the county sheriff. Her suit alleges she was the victim of unlawful racial profiling, excessive force and an unlawful search.
Both the Salisbury police and the Rowan County Sheriff declined to comment to CNN during pending litigation. But the sheriff's department did add that they support the actions of their deputy. In court filings, all the defendants have denied the allegations.
BOTTOM: I want the officers that have hurt me to be accountable for what they did. That's it.
SIDNER (voice-over): Is it? I wondered after her experience, what she thought about policing policing.
BOTTOM: And I still feel that we need them. We need them.
SIDNER (voice-over): Every family we talked to who suffered trauma or death during a police traffic stop felt the same way.
(on camera): Do you think that we as a society need police?
CASTILE: I can say yes, I think that the police should live in the districts that they serve as well. And see how that works out, you know.
KATIE BRYANT, DAUNTE WRIGHT'S MOTHER: We need police, we do but they need to have better training and they need to be a part of the bigger picture not the nonviolent offenses, not the traffic stops.
SIDNER (voice-over): They say all they're asking for is fairness from the people sworn to protect and serve.