Report: Racial bias exists within Durham Police Department
Posted May 1
Durham, N.C. — Durham's Human Relations Commission says in a new report that racial bias and profiling does exist in the Bull City's police department, and it plans to present a list of nearly three dozen recommendations to city leaders on how to fix the problem.
In October, Durham Mayor Bill Bell asked the 15-member panel of residents to look into allegations after scrutiny about how police officers handled a series of highly publicized incidents, including the shooting of a distraught 26-year-old black man in a downtown plaza.
"Based on our research, supported by testimony from Durham citizens, we found the existence of racial bias and profiling present in the Durham Police Department practices," the Human Relations Commission says in its five-page report.
The six-month review was based on a series of public hearings, interviews with police department representatives, community advocacy groups and residents.
The final results: 34 recommendations that will be presented to leaders at next week's City Council meeting.
- Implementing diversity, mental health and crisis intervention training for new police recruits and enhancing training for current officers
- Increasing awareness of the police department's community programs and increasing officers' visibility in the community to "give citizens a greater understanding and appreciation" of the department's "positive work"
- Psychiatric evaluations every three years for officers and police employees
- 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
- Obtaining written consent and a signature for police searches
In an Oct. 31 report to Durham's city manager, the police department said that it doesn't deny that racial bias might exist among some police officers, but it denies "the existence of any pattern, practice, culture or tolerance for bias-based policing."
“There is as much racial bias in the police department as there is in any organization," Police Chief Jose Lopez said Thursday. "If we discover it, we work to address it."
Some of the recommendations, such as diversity training, he said, are things the police department is already doing. He declined to comment further, saying he is waiting to see what action city leaders might take on the recommendations.
Daryl Atkinson, an attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and a member of the community group Fostering Alternative Drug Enforcement, says he thinks the report and set of recommendations are an important step for the community.
"People in the most directly impacted community should feel a sense of validation because this has been their life experience day in and day out," Atkinson said. "This is nothing new to them."