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Durham Police Chief Steps Aside, Temporarily

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DURHAM — Durham's police chief announced Mondayafternoon that he would temporarily turn most of his duties over to hissecond in command and focus his attention on a homicide task force.

Many were shocked by Chief Jackie McNeil's announcement, which comes onthe heels of controversy about his leadership and the department ingeneral. McNeil says it's something he feels he needs to do.

Critics point to the city's record murder and high crime rates, andseveral police officers have filed a lawsuit charging that the policedepartment is rife with racism and sexual harassment. An audit of thedepartment has called daily management policies into question.

McNeil refused to comment on those charges. He said Monday that he isretaining the title of Chief of Police and will continue to work out ofhis office. He said he would resume his duties as chief once he issatisfied that the taskforce, which will be designed to reduce Durham's murder rate, is operatingas he wishes. Lt. Col Ken Fletcher, said McNeil, willact as police chief during this period.

McNeil said he has the support of Durham's mayor and city manager and an unidentified religious leader in this effort. He said he wants to forma coalition consisting of police department personnel and communityleaders on the task force.

He said he hopes this move will take the spotlight off of the policedepartment and place it on efforts to fight crime.

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