Durham Police Problems Persist

Video shows Durham Police use of force

Re-emphasizing the need for immediate action to curb racial profiling by Durham Police, a video was released this week detailing the case of Durham bicyclist John Hill. Mr. Hill is an African American man who was stopped, assaulted, wrongfully charged and illegally searched pursuant to a stop for an alleged bicycle violation (which he was later acquitted of). The video uses Hill’s case to illustrate the need for some of the policy reforms that SCSJ and the FADE coalition have been suggesting to City Council.

Op-Ed shines light on continuing Durham Police issues

The Durham News recently ran an Op-Ed entitled “Commentary: Time to fix Durham’s police problem,” urging City Council not to delay action on racial profiling reforms, but instead to take decisive action at their Monday, June 16 City Council meting.   The Op-Ed is signed by a broad array of community organizations, representing thousands of Durham residents and dozens of area churches, including Durham CAN (Congregations, Associations & Neighborhoods), the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, the Durham People’s Alliance, the Durham NAACP, the Board of Directors of Durham Congregations in Action, Action NC, the George H. White Bar Association and the N.C. Public Defender Committee on Racial Equity. The full piece may be read here, and an excerpt appears below.

The city’s Human Relations Commission (HRC) recently concluded by a vote of 11-3 that the practice of racial profiling is embedded within the culture of the department and made a series of recommendations of how to address the issue…
The weight of the responsibility to address these disparities now rests with the City Council. Despite the significant role of City Manager Tom Bonfield in this process, it is the council that is ultimately responsible for and accountable to this community. Suggested recommendations include the adoption of a mandatory written consent-to-search policy, periodic review of officer stop and arrest data, the deprioritization of low-level marijuana arrests, racial equity training, and an overhaul of the anemic Civilian Police Review Board.
This five point agenda, initially put forth by the FADE coalition, found considerable support in the HRC and has been endorsed in full by our respective organizations. If adopted, this package of common sense policies would help mitigate the highly racialized outcomes generated by our police department. Most are low or no cost and could be adopted with a simple voice vote at Monday’s council meeting.
Every additional day the city drags this process out is another day that innocent Durham citizens are being hurt. The department’s own statistics show that, even after controlling for age, gender, time of day, and reason for stop, blackness is a statistically significant predictor of the likelihood of being pulled out of one’s car and searched during a routine traffic stop. African-Americans are 165 percent more likely to be subjected to the practice, all things being equal. And they are over 300 percent more likely to be arrested for low-level marijuana offenses, despite equal usage rates.
The numbers are clear, extremely troubling, and demand immediate remedial action. The Durham City Council, City Manager Bonfield and broader Durham community cannot afford to wait any longer.

More details will follow on the progress of Durham City Council in addressing racial profiling by Durham Police.