Durham Residents Frustrated Over Police Chief Hiring Process
Posted August 2, 2002 4:56 a.m. EDT
DURHAM, N.C. — Officials claim the people of Durham are facing a rising murder rate and no permanent police chief. Residents say they are getting frustrated over the long hiring process.
City Manager Marcia Conner has conducted a nationwide search to find the next police chief. She said she has narrowed her list to three candidates:
Beverly Lyons is fed up with crime. Steel bars cover the windows of her shop on Fayetteville Street, and while she has never been a victim herself, she thinks Durham Police really need to do something about crime.
"The police, they [are] not as visible as they should be in this area," she said.
Lyons thinks some stability in the department's top spot would help.
"They need to have someone that's going to stick in there. Stay. They don't need someone who'll come in and leave," she said.
Former Police Chief Teresa Chambers headed up the department from 1998 until last January. During her first six months on the job, violent crime dropped 16 percent.
"Chief Chambers was to the police department what Richard Simmons is to weight loss," said Matt Yarbrough, a member of Durham's Crime Cabinet.
During her tenure, Chambers increased community policing programs and worked hard on crime prevention. Since then, the number of property crimes has hit a four-year low.
"She did what needed to be done and the police department is better off for that," Yarbrough said.
Still, officials said the department is not solving crimes as quickly as they would like. Their clearance rate is below the national average, and the murder rate is climbing. This year, 21 people have died in the city compared to 15 at the same time last year.
Mayor Bill Bell believes six months without a permanent police chief is long enough. He said Durham needs an aggressive and visible police chief.
"I think the community feels better when they know the police chief is out and engaged in the community," he said. "I think we're at the point where we're hoping she will quickly make the choice and go forward," he said.
Officials say an announcement could come as early as Friday.