Durham city leaders receive report claiming police racial bias
Posted May 22
Durham, N.C. — A report claiming racial bias within the Durham Police Department, and ways to fix it, was presented to Durham city leaders on Thursday.
But not every member of the Durham Human Relations Commission, which authored the report, was in sync with its findings. Three members disagreed with the racial bias claim.
Charmery Morgan, the only committee member who voiced her opinion at the meeting, agreed with the report.
“I don’t like what’s happening at the Durham Police Department and I don’t like what’s happening in the City of Durham,” she said.
The review was requested by Durham Mayor Bill Bell in October after a series of highly publicized incidents, including the shooting of a 26-year-old man at a downtown Durham plaza.
In an Oct. 31 report to Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield, the police department said it doesn't deny that racial bias might exist among some officers, but it denies "the existence of any pattern, practice, culture or tolerance for bias-based policing."
City Councilman Steve Schewel believes the issue has affected the department’s image.
“Trust in the department has weakened, and we do need that trust to be fully restored,” he said.
Thursday’s meeting comes two days after Durham police released dash-cam video of a traffic stop to counter claims of racial profiling and excessive use of force during the incident.
The committee report listed 34 recommendations, including:
- Implementing diversity, mental health and crisis intervention training for new police recruits and enhancing training for current officers
- Changing police department policy that allows officers to disable cameras installed in patrol vehicles
- Requiring police officers to clearly communicate to citizens the purpose for their interactions
“Hopefully it’s not one of those many reports, proposals and plans that the city has collected that sit on a shelf collecting dust,” Durham resident Gwyn Silver said during the meeting.
Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez, who attended Thursday’s meeting, said he will wait and see what recommendations city leaders want to implement before commenting on the report.
After Mayor Bell called for the report in October, Lopez said at the time that “there is as much racial bias in the police department as there is in any organization. If we discover it, we work to address it."
City council members asked Bonfield to present a timetable for a recommended course of action on June 16.
“At the end of the day, the buck stops with me and I will be personally responsible for shepherding this through the process,” he said.