(Homeless Union of GSO Updates) Help Get a Written Consent Policy Passed – Join us on Feb. 20th!

*Greensboro residents deserve to know their rights when they are stopped by
the police*
*We deserve a written informed-consent policy for police searches*
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*Join us *
At the Greensboro Criminal Justice Advisory Commission
Meeting on Feb. 20th at 6 PM
At the Central Library
219 Church Street
And show your support for a fair Written Consent policy

Dear Friends and Supporters,

When the Homeless Union of Greensboro, and academics from UNCG and Guilford
College published *A Safe Place to Stay: Combating Homelessness, Police
Violence and Jim Crow in Greensboro
<www.homelessunion.org/a-safe-place-to-stay> *in November, 2019, we
documented through survey results and public records data how police in
Greensboro target, harass, cite and arrest people experiencing homelessness
and residents who are black at a disproportionate rate.

– 44% of survey respondents reported being profiled for their race
– and 43% reported being profiled for “appearing to be homeless”
– These perceptions were backed up by data from the Greensboro Police
Department that show that officers disproportionately arrest and cite
individuals who are Black and homeless for quality of life offenses.

In *A Safe Place to Stay, *we included a 10 Point Platform
<7c953af5-666b-41d7-90cc-d0c27cc5fad9.filesusr.com/ugd/03c5ff_35a5ac7f69024c9bbe9bf6ceb6ffa666.pdf>and
listed numerous policy proposals that we believe would improve conditions
for people experiencing homelessness, and protect our rights. Among those
policy proposals was a *Written Consent Policy* which protects residents *4th
amendment rights* to privacy.

Written Consent policies, in simple terms, require police to obtain *documented
proof of consent *before engaging in searches if they do not have probable
cause (i.e. proof of contraband) by instructing officers to give residents
a form which explains their rights before engaging in consent-searches.

*Written Consent policies have been passed in Durham, NC and other cities
across the state. *In the communities which have adopted these policies,
racial disparities in policing and searches have been reduced, and far
fewer people are arrested for low-level victim-less crimes, such as
possession of small amounts of marijuana.
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Durham’s Written Consent Form: In Durham, NC, Police must get a signed
consent form in order to engage in consent searches of residents. These
forms inform residents of their rights – including the right to deny a
consent search – and the requirement to use written consent forms in
Durham, NC, has decreased racial disparities in traffic searches
dramatically.

Greensboro got a new chief of police on February 1st, 2020. We believe that
Greensboro has a great opportunity to see substantive change in regard to
policing in Greensboro under new leadership. But Chief James cannot
transform Greensboro’s police department alone – the community must show up
and show support for policy changes such as adopting a written consent
policy.

For the past several months, residents of Greensboro have been meeting and
discussing and re-imagining what safety could look like in Greensboro. The
group, known as *Greensboro Neighbors for Safety, Justice and Wellbeing
for All *has chosen to support a written consent policy because it protects
citizens rights has been proven to work in multiple other cities in North
Carolina to reduce disparities and create more fairness in police searches.
Below, we’ve copied a notice they put out, asking people to get involved
and support a Written Consent Policy for police searches in Greensboro.

*This coming Thursday – Feb. 20th, at 6:00 PM – *The Greensboro Criminal
Justice Advisory Commission will be meeting at the Greensboro Central
Library – 219 N. Church Street – and they will accept comments from the
public regarding policies, and we are asking that people show up to speak
about the need for a written consent policy. Please Join us.

*Statement from Greensboro Neighbors for Safety, Justice and Wellbeing for
All *

Good evening!

We’re so glad that so many of you signed our petition last year to get a
police chief who would lead with an eye towards more just policing or
attended our teach in on MLK weekend! We are organizing around some of the
policies we highlighted, and it’s clear that it will take the community
pushing for good governance to get them enacted. The first one we’re
working on is Written Consent.

*We are writing to ask you to please come out on Thursday, February 20th,
at 6:00 PM to the Greensboro Criminal Justice Advisory Commission at the
Central Library’s Tannenbaum-Sternberger Room *to thank the commission for
recommending that the City of Greensboro adopt a Written Consent policy,
and to advocate for City Council adopting this policy.

*What is Written Consent? *A written consent policy requires police to get
your signature, on a paper that informs you that there are no negative
repercussions for you saying no to a consent search, before they search
you. (A consent search is when the police have to get your permission to
search you, because they do not have probable cause.)

*How is that different from what we have now? *Currently, Greensboro has a
policy on the books that allows police officers to either get consent to
search you verbally (while a bodycam records the interaction), or with your
signature. This is insufficient, and allows for a lot of ambiguity.
Requiring a signature on a form that makes sure you know what your rights
are is an important part of making sure consent is affirmative, and that
people are not coerced into allowing a search.

*Why do we need the policy?*
Because currently 82% (or 4 out of 5) of people searched by police in
Greensboro are Black, and we only make up 41% of the population. Cities
that have adopted policies that require written consent have seen racial
disparities in consent searches decrease dramatically. (Durham’s went down
from around 500 to around 50 in a year, after they passed theirs.)

Since 82% of people searched are Black, and 57% pulled over are Black, we
are not only more likely to be stopped, but that once we are stopped, we
are much more likely to be searched. Over a 20 year period, there is
virtually no difference between the amount of contraband found on Black and
white people who are searched (with white people actually having slightly
more contraband found on them), and in 2019 although Black people had
contraband more often, the difference is much smaller than the disparity in
searches, and does not justify that disparity.

*Isn’t a new police chief enough to make the racial disparities go away?*
No. While we are glad to see new leadership in the police department, a
shift in who is in office by itself is not enough to address these
disparities, which have persisted over the tenures of several police
chiefs. Without a concrete change in the form of an ordinance from City
Council, Greensboro will not have this protection as a permanent fixture,
regardless of who is in the position of Chief. This is not a minor
administrative shift, but an issue of governance that impacts racial equity
in tangible ways.

*Also: We will have a presentation on deprioritizing marijuana, *which is
indistinguishable from Hemp/ CBD products without testing. Since officers
can’t determine one from the other without testing, and one is legal, the
State Bureau of Investigation said it’s impossible for them to get probable
cause to search people for it. *In Greensboro, 82% of people charged for
marijuana possession are Black, and only 16% are white, making it mostly
legal for white people in the city. *

Invite your friends and come stand with us. If you’d like to get more
involved, respond to this email & we’ll get in touch!

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Sincerely,
Casey Thomas
– Greensboro Neighbors for Safety, Justice and Wellbeing for All