Local Politics

After councilwoman's op-ed about policing, Durham city manager blasts back

Posted January 30, 2020 6:24 p.m. EST
Updated January 30, 2020 7:17 p.m. EST

— Durham City Manager Thomas J. Bonfield took issue Thursday with an opinion piece published in USA Today, co-written by Mayor Pro-Tem Jillian Johnson and St. Louis Alderman Megan Green.

The women cited an investigation by the Center for Popular Democracy and Local Progress to make an argument that "communities across the country were overpoliced, hypercriminalized and overincarcerated."

They wrote:

Durham, North Carolina, is one of the poorest performing cities in the country when it comes to use of force, attaining the lowest possible scores in four out of the seven use-of-force categories evaluated in the Local Progress study. Officers weren't required to intervene in excessive use-of-force cases, nor were they required to publicly report them.

On the other hand, spending on police is one of the largest parts of the city's overall budget. Last year, Durham dedicated 13% of it to cops and corrections, while giving less than 3% to jobs and youth programs.

Bonfield, in response, called the op-ed "defaming to the Durham Police Department and inaccurate."

He wrote to Johnson that he knew she was working on a report about the police department – she shared some of that data in a December city council meeting – and that the police department offered her "corrections and clarifications."

Over the course of eight pages, Bonfield defends the Durham Police Department and Chief C.J. Davis. The publication of Johnson's op-ed, he wrote, has the potential to erode relationships between Durham police and the community.

In response, Johnson told WRAL News that she disagreed, saying that the Center for Popular Democracy and Local Progress analysis "is largely accurate and that our policies should be improved."

"Improving our policies would create a safer environment for all residents who use police services or interact with officers in Durham," Johnson said in a statement Thursday. "I look forward to more conversations with the City Manager about these concerns and how we can create a safer city of all of our residents."

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