Local News

Durham officials respond to police racial bias recommendations

Posted August 21, 2014
Updated August 22, 2014

— Efforts to improve racial sensitivity within the Durham Police Department, enhance communication and transparency between officers and citizens and make minor marijuana arrests a low priority took a few steps forward this week after city officials responded to suggestions to improve the police department.

Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield on Thursday presented a 131-page report in response to recommendations from the city’s Human Relations Commission and Civilian Police Review Board to a standing room only crowd inside City Council chambers.

“Is it going to make everyone 100 percent happy? No,” Bonfield said of his report. “I think there's still plenty of time for discussion. But people have positions, and as I said in my comments, what makes Durham great is we're not afraid to talk about those differences.”

One recommendation called for Durham officers to complete a racial equity training program. All of the department’s captains and lieutenants, along with the majority of sergeants and corporals, will go through the training in October. The training will become mandatory for all Durham officers.

Another recommendation suggests making minor marijuana arrests a low priority in Durham. Law enforcement and judicial officials in Durham County will review the department’s marijuana arrests and recommend initiatives reducing the criminal and financial impact of those charged and convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Other recommendations, which are listed below, focused on increasing community involvement in police efforts, police car cameras and body microphones, data regarding traffic stops, consent and search procedures, access to complaint forms and providing more powers and responsibilities to the Civilian Police Review Board.

The recommendations from the city’s Human Relations Commission were issued in May following a request by Durham Mayor Bill Bell, which came after public scrutiny over how Durham officers handled a series of highly publicized incidents, including the shooting of a distraught 26-year-old black man in a downtown plaza last year.

Bonfield’s report comes after community turmoil over the death of a 17-year-old in police custody and the filing of a lawsuit by a Durham assistant police chief claiming he and another officer were bypassed for promotions based on race.

“While some might view the past few months as possibly damaging to the police department and to Durham, it has been a valuable introspection requiring the asking of difficult and sometimes sensitive questions, reviewing of processes and practices that have been taken for granted due to real or perceived lack of need, and the implementing of policies that reinforce accountability,” the report said. “It is the city’s desire that this review and the administration’s recommendations signal the repairing and rebuilding of a trusting relationship between the police department and all segments of the Durham community.”

Below is a summary of each recommendation and the city’s response:

Durham police should regularly publicize their community and neighborhood involvement.

The department already does such but plans to enhance their public relations efforts. The department is also in the process of hiring a public affairs manager.

City Council should find ways to increase awareness and attendance at Partners Against Crime (PAC) meetings.

During PAC meetings, police, city officials and residents in each of the city’s five police districts meet monthly to discuss community issues. Between July 2013 and June 2014, the average attendance at PAC meetings was 216.

The city has begun efforts to increase awareness and attendance.

Durham police should put more emphasis on promoting its Citizens Police Academy.

Ongoing promotional efforts are in place, including press releases, social media exposure, promoting the academy through other city departments and promotions at Durham police events. Department officials are also discussing how to further promote the academy.

Durham police should recruit Durham residents.

Since August 2010, out of 185 candidates accepted into the Durham police academy, 28 percent were Durham residents. Currently, nearly half of the department’s sworn officers (42 percent) live in Durham.

The city stressed continued focus on recruiting Durham residents but said the department should continue to seek the most qualified applicants.

Psychiatric evaluations should be required for all Durham police employees every three years.

The department conducts psychiatric evaluations for new applicants, officers transferring from other departments and those transferring to special divisions. Such evaluations are mandatory for officers involved in critical incidents. Out of seven major North Carolina cities polled by Durham police, only Fayetteville (when an officer’s actions or use of force results in serious injury or death) and Raleigh (annually for SWAT team members) conduct periodic evaluations of sworn officers.

City officials agree with the department’s current practices.

Police vehicle cameras should remain on at all times, officers should not be allowed to disable the cameras and digital copies of police car video should remain on file for no less than 180 days.

Police vehicle cameras are activated when the emergency lights are on or when an officer hits ‘record’ on their wearable microphone or on the camera. Both must be on during traffic stops. Department rules state that recording should not be stopped until “there is no longer any reasonable likelihood of recording video that is evidentiary or procedural in nature.” Officers are not allowed to tamper with the cameras and must report any malfunctions to their supervisor. Also, the department recently instituted a policy to keep police car video on file for at least 180 days.

City officials are satisfied with the department’s current practices.

Durham officers should communicate the reason why a person is stopped and detained, and such must be documented in a form that the person can review.

Current department policies outline requirements for officers to explain why a person is being stopped. But creating such a form would be considered part of a criminal investigation and not for public record, according to a legal analysis of the recommendation.

A written form should be required for all consent searches, all encounters requiring a search of a person or property should be documented and supervisors should review these reports.

The department has such forms, but they are used at the discretion of the individual officer. The department is working to make them mandatory for all consent searches of premises, dwellings or other property. No search will be conducted if a person refuses to sign. But the department disagrees that written consent should be required in all circumstances.

“Concerns that officer safety or situational control of traffic stops could be jeopardized if an officer has to retrieve or explain a consent form instead of simply having the driver respond ‘yes or no,’” the report said.

City officials recommend that search consent forms should be available in English and Spanish. Also, department procedures should be amended to read that all reasonable efforts should be made to ensure the in-car camera and microphone are working. The department is also evaluating the use of body cameras for officers.

Traffic stop data should be reviewed quarterly to spot unusual trends.

Department rules require traffic stop data to be reviewed annually and a report submitted to the police chief. But the department has not reviewed stops of individual officers, in part because the overall data does not suggest a need for an in-depth review of individual officers, the report said. But the department agrees that the amount of data collected on traffic stops should be expanded and a bi-annual report of traffic stop data should be generated.

City officials agree with the department’s actions. The police chief will present a report on traffic stop data to the city manager by October.

Durham police should collaborate with a national independent training organization to create a racial equity training program for Durham officers.

Earlier this year, the department initiated a racial equity training program and curriculum also used by police departments in Raleigh, Fayetteville and Greensboro. The department’s current recruit class will be the first to complete the course. All captains and lieutenants, along with the majority of sergeants and corporals, will go through the training in October. The training will be mandatory for all Durham officers.

City officials agree with the department’s actions.

Racial equity, mental health and crisis intervention training should be included in new recruit training.

The department is implementing a racial equity training program. Recruits learn about mental health issues during their training and the department has crisis intervention training, which 180 officers have completed.

City officials agree with the department’s actions.

The department should enhance their mental health and crisis intervention training for officers who regularly interact with the community.

All Durham officers receive mental health training and the department has a 40-hour crisis intervention training program. Currently, 71 of 221 frontline officers have received the training.

City officials agree with the department’s actions and have directed the department to review and implement new training procedures.

An officer’s performance review should include a review of stop/search data for irregularities

While the city’s job performance review metric can incorporate this data, the challenge is how to do so in an effective manner, the report said. The department does have an early intervention system, which catches officer patterns that include complaints and use of force.

City officials agree with the department’s actions.

“As a strategy to improve effectiveness, the department should consider the use of ‘rates’ of policing activities compared with other officers similarly assigned,” the report said. “The police department should carefully determine thresholds for alerts and intervention in the context of organization priorities.”

Yearly training needs analysis in order to make adjustments to meet community needs.

City officials agree with the department’s actions.

The city should reach out to other municipalities regarding making marijuana arrests a low priority and consider whether to do the same in Durham.

City officials recommend that the department:

  • Complete a review of misdemeanor marijuana arrests between January 2013 and July 2014 to determine any patterns.
  • Institute an annual review of misdemeanor marijuana arrests for unexplained disparities.
  • Meet with other Durham law enforcement and judicial officials to recommend programs and practices that reduce the criminal and financial impact of those charged and/or convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Police complaints should be reviewed by the Citizens Police Review Board instead of the department’s internal affairs division.

City officials recommend that complaints continue to be investigated by the department.

The National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) should conduct annual training for the Citizens Police Review Board.

City officials recommend obtaining NACOLE membership and identify training opportunities for review board members.

The city council should oversee the Citizens Police Review Board and have a staff attorney advise the board

A city attorney has always been assigned to the board.

City officials recommend the mayor and city council confirm the city manager’s board selections.

Some appointments to the Citizens Police Review Board should be made through Partners Against Crime (PAC) groups.

City officials recommend that PACs should be notified regarding board vacancies but the board should not be required to include PAC members.

The time to appeal to the Citizens Police Review Board should be extended (from 14 days) to 30 working days after receiving a response from internal affairs.

City officials agree with the change, which much be approved by the city council.

Those appealing to the Citizens Police Review Board should have 60 days to gather supporting evidence in their appeal.

City officials recommend 30 days, which requires city council approval.

The Citizens Police Review Board appeal form should be made available in electronic form and placed on the city’s Human Relations Commission web page.

City officials agree.

The Citizens Police Review Board should report any findings of unethical behaviors towards citizens and take disciplinary action.

City officials recommend any findings of unethical behavior should be reported to the city manager or the city’s audit services department. Any disciplinary action will be in accordance with city policies.

Officer complaint forms should be made available online and submitted electronically.

City officials agree and the forms will be accessible from the city manager’s webpage.

Durham police should institute a policy enforcing timely responses to complaints.

City officials recommend that the department notifies complainants through mail if an investigation will take longer than anticipated. The department has also started providing an expected completion date in initial letters to complainants.

Durham police should institute a policy ensuring complaints of retaliation are properly investigated.

City officials support the protections already present in the department’s rules and procedures and found no weaknesses in the current rules.

The Citizens Police Review Board should investigate any retaliation by Durham officers on those filing complaints against them.

City officials do not recommend expanding the board’s powers to include such.

Durham police should strengthen accountability measures regarding racial profiling and bias.

City officials agree that a more comprehensive evaluation of searches and traffic stop data is needed and that the department should review its “Biased Based Policing” policy.

The city should partner with community groups to advise citizens of their rights regarding searches and traffic stops.

City officials support community education regarding citizens’ rights but suggested that outside agencies should do so as their resources allow.

Durham police and other city agencies should complete a strategic plan that includes community-policing initiatives.

City officials recommend that the police department’s strategic plan should include community policing initiatives. The final plan will be adopted in September.

Officer complaint forms should be a fillable document, should be more readily available and decals should be placed on police cars instructing citizens to contact Durham One Call regarding police concerns.

City officials recommend improving the complaint form and its access.

Durham police’s most recent policies and procedures should be accessible online.

Police officials said this process has already started.

The department should confirm receipt of a complaint, explain the complaint process and include contact information for the captain of the department’s professional standards division.

City officials recommend that the department follow up with complainants if the investigation will last longer than anticipated and that the captain’s contact information, or that of their designee, should be included in the letter mailed at the completion of the investigation.

The final letter sent to a complainant should include some details of the case as well as a list of potential discipline actions an officer can face.

City officials recommend that the department provides this list in the determination letter.

Complainants should have 30 days from receiving the determination letter to file an appeal with the Civilian Police Review Board.

City officials agree. The change must be approved by the city council.

The Civilian Police Review Board should receive quarterly performance reviews from the department’s professional standards division.

City officials agree, adding that the reports should summarize the number and types of investigations handled during the previous quarter.

The Civilian Police Review Board’s annual report should be posted on the city manager’s website.

City officials agree. The 2012 and 2013 reports are on the city manager’s page.

The Civilian Police Review Board should create a brochure about the board and the complaint process.

City officials agree.

The Civilian Police Review Board should host one community forum a year.

City officials agree.

The Civilian Police Review Board should be available to present information on the complaint process to Partners Against Crime groups and other organizations.

City officials agree.

35 Comments

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  • Rick Price Aug 22, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Jay walking is still AGAINST THE LAW ! Use the crosswalk and your child wont be harassed.

  • disgusted2010 Aug 22, 2014

    View quoted thread



    Has nothing to do with the statistics posted. When people speak about black communities and white communities (which is more prevalent by minorities) then there is inherent bias. Martin Luther King worked for equality and people being judged by the content of their character NOT by the color of their skin. Those in Durham apparently do not understand/what this. They want to continue to be separate to play the race card, claim racism and use this as an excuse for committing crimes and screaming when held accountable for it. The police should not look at a person's race when they make an arrest. Based on what I have heard from the "leadership" in Durham they want the police to look the other way if minorities are observed violating the laws and if one crime (here marijuana) is violated by one race more than the other then the police should look the other way (or concentrate on other crime). This is the very definition of racism.

  • 68_dodge_polara Aug 22, 2014

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    A+

  • jgriffith3792 Aug 22, 2014

    Amazing how pointing out facts is now considered racism. Amazing.

    Folks just needs to get over their uber-sensitivity and the need to protest about every little thing that causes the slightest discomfort to their precious feelings and just get on with their lives.

  • disgusted2010 Aug 22, 2014

    View quoted thread



    Well if you don't recognize it then its futile to argue. AND its the reason that there will not be equality.

  • independent_thinker Aug 22, 2014

    How would you like your kids harassed for 'jaywalking'?

  • Anita Woody Aug 22, 2014

    View quoted thread



    There is nothing inherently racists about that statement. Of course good liberal education at a very conservative and good land-grant institution intermingled with my science and engineering curricula learnt me that.

  • cdurham Aug 22, 2014

    The big issues are poverty and the breakdown of the family unit. How many middle class African Americans do you know that commit crimes? I think we need to focus more on the success stories. If I were poor and African American the media (this week in particular) would convince me that I couldn't raise myself out of poverty.

  • disgusted2010 Aug 22, 2014

    View quoted thread



    I agree, you have made a racist statement. But then that's nothing new, your posts are consistently some of the more divisive and race based and biased on this site.

  • disgusted2010 Aug 22, 2014

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    You post in inherently racist. You speak of the "white" and "black" communities. I thought the idea was to have full integration and EQUALITY. With racist attitudes like you exhibit there can never be equality.

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