Local News

Raleigh Police Change Policy After Incident At Homeless Camp

Posted June 28, 2004 8:00 a.m. EDT

— Raleigh police are changing the way they deal with the homeless after the department says two officers went too far when they destroyed a homeless camp.

Police say homeless camps are most often illegal and are usually set up on someone else's property.

The officers were just doing their job; however, the way they did that job lead to a complaint, which has brought changes at the police department.

"They cut them with knives to make sure they'll never be used again," said the Rev. Alice McGee, of a Church in the Woods, describing the heavy-handed work of two Raleigh police officers.

On March 30, the officers responded to complaints of trespassing and destroyed the homeless camp on the southern edge of Raleigh's city limits. The officers reported slashed tents and scattered what was left.

"This was their home and now they had nothing and they didn't even know where to go," McGee said.

She says about a dozen people called the camp home. McGee helped two of the men file a complaint with the Raleigh Police Department.

After an internal investigation, the department took disciplinary actions against the officers, saying they went too far.

The complaint also led to a new department policy on identifying and dismantling homeless camps.

"This issue has brought to bare that it's a learning experience for us. So, we're trying to be very positive here and make sure we can better serve the citizens, which include homeless people," Capt. Dennis Poteat said.

McGee says the new rules should help create a new level of trust between officers and the homeless.

"We're very encouraged by that and there'll be some training and hopefully some sensitivity training," she said.

Along with the training, Raleigh police plan to work with local agencies and community groups to assist the homeless living in these camps, in terms of providing resources.

An officer has been assigned to a Wake County committee now working on a 10-year action plan to eliminate homelessness in Raleigh.