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'More police don't equal less crime:' Dialogue between Durham law enforcement, community members

Durham County Sheriff Clarence F. Birkhead and Chief of Police Cerelyn 'C.J.' Davis will host a summit on Friday to talk with community members about law enforcement tactics and practices.

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Nia Harden
, Sarah Krueger, WRAL reporters; Heather Leah, WRAL multiplatform producer
DURHAM, N.C. — Community members and Durham law enforcement gathered Friday afternoon for an open discussion about how to improve the relationship between police and the community they serve.

“Police and crime are not correlated," said Skip Gibbs, a community member, organizer and founder of the Other America Movement. "More police don’t equal less crime. More resources, more community members being involved in the community, equals less crime.”

Durham County Sheriff Clarence F. Birkhead and Chief of Police Cerelyn 'C.J.' Davis participated in the group discussion, openly sharing their perspective on current events and sharing ideas on how police and communities could work together.

The invite-only discussion between citizens, organizers and Durham law enforcement officials was supposed to be streamed for the public. However, a little over 10 minutes into the discussion, organizers had a change of heart and cut the stream off, saying they wanted be able to 'have an honest conversation.'

A group to serve as liaisons between communities and police

Organizers proposed the establishment of a community liaison group.

"We would like to establish a community liaison of local leaders who are boots on the ground in the community and talking with these people regularly," said Gibbs.

"We will work hand in hand with the local government, and we will make sure that everything that needs to be addressed in our communities – even down to crime, even if we see something we will say something," he said.

Gibbs requested funding for resource centers, a community garden, maybe a grocery store and other resources to benefit communities.

Police Chief Davis acknowledged that community organizers have, in some respects, more power to keep the peace than law enforcement has.

She said, "I saw you out there telling people to put their spray (paint) can away. That’s more effective than one of my guys dressed in mobile field forces."

Gibbs said that in the same way he can encourage his community to build things up.

Durham's police chief explains law enforcement perspective

Davis said she understands the frustration and pain of the community. In response, she said she's made a point of keeping police presence light while anger and tensions are still hot.

"It's kind of like when your kids make you angry. You tell them to go to their room. And when they come out, every time you see them, they make you angry. Our approach has been, we're going to the room," she said.

Of systemic racism in the United States, Davis said, "I’ve lived it. I still live it. But we cannot continue to improve our community unless we all work together.”

However, she wants the community to be aware of the many good officers who are outraged by George Floyd's death. She said Officer Derek Chauvin's act of sitting on Floyd's neck was a betrayal to the officers who dedicate their lives to feeding children in need, who pay for hotels for homeless people and who serve their community.

Davis said she doesn't tolerate her officers mistreating people, and a bridge of trust must be built between people and officers. "Just like the protest the other night, they thought we tried to run people over. I was appalled at that. We spent five days trying to make sure everybody had a space, safe," she said.

Davis acknowledged that help from community members could make a large impact.

"If I could get 1,000 community members to come and show how upset they are, all 1,000 of them need to be in the community helping us get guns out of kids hands, so police officers don’t have to come be in my young black men’s faces to stop all the shooting," she said.


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