News Roundup

Video of a Salisbury Police Department K9 handler hoisting a police dog, Zuul, by his leash and slamming him into the side of a vehicle during a training exercise made local and national headlines this week and is under review by the department.  Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes said at a press conference, which Zuul attended, that an outside agency is reviewing the incident to determine whether the handler’s actions were proper methods of training.  Keep reading for more news.

Hair Comparison.  WBTV reports that the NC Department of Justice  and the State Crime Laboratory have been under pressure from the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence to review old criminal cases where crime lab staff potentially overstated the reliability of microscopic hair comparison as a forensic technique.  The majority of problematic cases occurred prior to 1990 and a review will be time consuming and resource intensive.  In a recent letter to the Center, the director of the State Crime Lab, Vanessa Martinucci, said that the crime lab is committed to identifying pre-1990 cases involving microscopic hair comparison, but that extensive manual searching of the. State Archives will be required and it will take a yet undetermined amount of time to complete.

Traffic Stop Reporting. The North Carolina Criminal Justice Analysis Center recently published the final part of a series of reports examining traffic stops in our state.  Part 1 presented racial disparities among drivers stopped, Part 2 examined the purpose of stops and actions taken as a result, and this final Part 3 focuses on searches conducted during stops.

The reports look at 10 years of data, going back to 2009 and continuing to 2019.  Part 1 indicates that Black drivers were stopped at greater rates than white drivers throughout the period for which data is available and were stopped at more than double the rate of white drivers in 2019.  Part 1 also indicates that white drivers are more likely than others to be stopped for speeding, while Black drivers are more likely than others to be stopped for equipment or regulatory violations.

Part 2 explains that in 2019 most stops were for speeding (42%) or regulatory or equipment violations (32%), with a small portion of stops (12%) being associated with a checkpoint or other investigation.  Local police conducted a majority of stops (52%) followed by the Highway Patrol (37%).  Stops based on suspicion of DWI accounted for less than 1% of all stops in each year, though the arrest rate in these stops was 50% in 2019.

Part 3 says that a search occurred in roughly 3% of all stops in each year.  Over time, the portion of consent searches has decreased from 50% to 22% while the portion of probable cause searches has grown from 17% to 63%.  In 2019, Black drivers were searched at about twice the rate of white and other drivers.  Take a look at the reports for more information.

Ransomware.  WLOS reports that Allergy Partners offices in Asheville and Arden were unable to give allergy shots for more than a week after falling victim to a ransomware attack and that the FBI now investigating the incident.  Hackers demanded $1.75 million in exchange for decrypting the company’s system.

Texas Murders.  Dallas news outlet NBC 5 reported this week that a Dallas police officer has been charged with two counts of murder for allegedly ordering the killings of two people in 2017.  Former Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall said that officer Bryan Riser first became a person of interest in the murders in 2019, but that the evidence against him at that time did not amount to probable cause.  Riser apparently continued to work as a police officer after becoming a person of interest in the murder investigations.

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