Durham city manager to review suggestions limiting police racial bias
Posted June 16, 2014
Durham, N.C. — City Manager Tom Bonfield will oversee the review and implementation of recommendations to city officials in response to claims of racial bias within the Durham Police Department, a process he believes can be completed within 60 days, Bonfield told city council members Monday night.
The two month deadline is a follow up to a May 22 meeting where council members received a report from the Durham Human Relations Commission claiming racial bias within the police department. The review was requested by Durham Mayor Bill Bell in October after a series of highly publicized incidents.
The report came two days after the department released dash-cam video of an arrest to show that a Durham officer followed procedure when he took a bicyclist into custody.
“I, too, realize that as the city manager, to which the police chief and the police department report, I am personally responsible and accountable for ensuring that this trust is upheld at the highest and most responsible level, and I am confident the dedicated men and women who serve this community in the Durham Police Department want the same thing,” Bonfield said in a statement.
Some residents who spoke during Monday’s city council meeting reaffirmed the report’s claim.
“The police pull up to my son as he is walking downtown,” said David Hall, who is black. “Not ‘can we have a conversation,’ it was ‘get in the car, get in the car.’ Those were the words spoken to him.”
After Bell called for the report, Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said at the time “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."
Hilton Cancel with the National Latino Police Officer’s Association said there are rumors that Bonfield’s inquiry could lead to Lopez’s removal.
“I can only say I am concerned about these rumors and hope this body will give him a fair shake in terms of not getting rid of him,” he said.
Some of the commission’s 34 recommendations include:
- 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
Bonfield will review the commission's suggestions as well as 10 recommendations from the Durham Civilian Police Review Board regarding improving their role in police and community relations. Bonfield and his staff will also review police practices in other North Carolina cities and consider feedback from advocacy organizations and Durham police.
“It is reasonable to expect that some recommendations both within and beyond my authority will not receive my concurrence,” Bonfield said in the statement. “In all cases these too will be presented to the city council, with support materials, for consideration in conjunction with the final report and response to all 44 recommendations.”
A report with Bonfield’s suggestions will be presented to the city council in August.