Local News

Durham officials weigh police department complaints

Posted September 19, 2013 5:49 p.m. EDT
Updated September 19, 2013 9:51 p.m. EDT

— Recent incidents involving the Durham Police Department have prompted calls for change.

On Tuesday, police shot and killed Derek Walker in a downtown plaza after an hour-long standoff during which the distraught 26-year-old waved a gun and threatened suicide.

His family said Thursday that they would like to see the police department change how it handles suicidal situations, including having certified psychiatrists on the scene of similar situations in the future.

"You didn't have to give him his request to die," said Walker's aunt, Norma Burton. "The main thing I'm looking for is to make sure this doesn't occur again."

Spokeswoman Kammie Michael said the police department doesn't have a psychiatrist on staff, but more than 275 officers receive at least 40 hours of crisis intervention training. The department also has specially trained hostage negotiators, she said.

Another group took its case to Durham City Council Thursday afternoon.

Attorney David Hall asked that Police Chief Jose Lopez and city managers go through racial equity training.

Hall was hit by a stray bullet during a June drive-by shooting, and Lopez is accused of telling some of his officers later that Hall deserved to be shot because he is a defense attorney.

"Durham has a runny nose, and I'm tired of being the Kleenex on that runny nose," Hall said. "We need to work on the root causes to institutional racism."

Mayor Bill Bell said he wants to hold a series of meetings with the community through the city's Human Relations Commission to address people's complaints with the police department.

"I don't take any of this as a joke. I take it quite seriously when people have been prejudiced, especially when it pertains to the police department," Bell said. "We aren't perfect, but we are open and transparent. No one is trying to hide anything under the table. We realize it takes time to get solutions."