Durham panel pushes back police recommendations one month

jalexander@newsobserver.comApril 3, 2014 

— The advisory board investigating racial profiling complaints against the Durham Police Department has pushed back a City Council report planned for this week until one month from now.

The city’s Human Relations Commission said it wants to take another look at the draft presentation to make sure it is “quality work.” It will meet again April 29.

Critics such as the Fostering Alternatives for Drug Enforcement coalition (FADE) – an advocacy group that works for equal treatment for people of all races, particularly with regard to drug enforcement – recommend that police submit consent to search forms to drivers who are pulled over before searching their vehicle. The recommendation has drawn interest from the commissioners.

Last month, the panel narrowed its recommendations to about 50 measures. Commissioners voted to recommend a racial equity training program for all police officers devised by the city in consultation with a “national independent training organization,” as well as mandatory psychological evaluations for all police employees every three years.

The commissioners spent almost seven hours, in meetings March 4 and 11. In the first meeting, they voted to recommend a stronger civilian police review board with membership representative of the entire city. It also voted to recommend eliminating patrol officers’ ability to turn off their in-car video cameras.

Commissioners also said police need to do a better job of telling the public how officers are engaging with residents aside from making patrols and arresting suspects – through such avenues as the Police Athletic League and Project Safe Neighborhoods.

Mayor Bill Bell assigned the commission to look into the Police Department after it became the target of mounting public complaints in 2013. Those complaints involved three officer-involved shootings, alleged police violence, racial profiling and a UNC study that found a wide disparity between the numbers of white and black motorists stopped, searched and arrested in the city, despite a similar population.

According to the Department of Justice website, in 2013 police searched more black women (363) when pulled over, than both white men and women together (362). Black men were searched 1,378 times.

The department has rebutted critics’ allegations, saying the traffic-stop statistics do not necessarily indicate racial profiling and that the department deploys its resources where crime and complaints about crime occur.

“We reiterate that each traffic stop is unique and searches are generally based on consent, probable cause, or search incident to arrest,” the department stated in a written report. “Asking for consent to search is not a violation of anyone’s rights nor is it discriminatory. It is merely using a law enforcement tool that has long been recognized by the highest court in this country.”

The commission voted that the chairman present the recommendations to the City Council in May.

Alexander: 919-932-2008; Twitter: @jonmalexander1

Durham News is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service