Social justice coalition claims unethical conduct by Durham PD
Posted March 12, 2014
Durham, N.C. — A spokeswoman for the Durham Police Department refuted claims Wednesday that the Bull City's law enforcement is involved in unethical practices that include paying bonuses to informants in drug cases if their testimony helps win convictions.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice says the department has repeatedly paid "secret conviction bonuses," which they learned about through police records obtained as part of an investigation into racial profiling.
"This – to put it mildly – is a gross violation of our laws of criminal procedure," Ian Mance, a civil rights attorney with the coalition, said Wednesday at a news conference. "From what we know so far, this practice appears to have been relegated exclusively to black and Latino defendants."
Police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said in an email Wednesday afternoon:
"The Durham Police Department denies any unethical or illegal activity as it relates to the paying of bonuses to confidential informants. The police department has never paid for convictions, only cooperation through case completion."
She also cited a Feb. 18 memo from the captain of the police department's Special Operations Division to the district attorney indicating that the word "conviction" on several expenditure reports from 2009 was inappropriately used.
"Regardless of the outcome of the court case, the CI still gets paid the bonus," the letter stated, adding that informants aren't paid until after a case has been resolved so that they have incentive to follow through with their testimony.
Still, Michael said, the police department's attorney has been asked "to review our practices, and we will be in discussion with the district attorney’s office to ensure that there are no procedural or legal issues in how we handle informants and their payment."
In a letter to Durham's mayor, police chief, City Council and other city officials, the coalition urged city leaders to take steps to restore community trust that, it believes, has been damaged because of the alleged practices.
The "unconstitutional practices" lack "the sort of internal controls and oversight necessary to catch and rectify misconduct when it occurs," the letter stated.