OFFICIAL FADE COALITION STATEMENT ON THE CITY MANAGER’S REPORT:
We have all witnessed this week in Ferguson, MO, what can happen when a police department becomes unaccountable to the community it serves. Many commentators have pointed to the city’s stop, search, and arrest statistics, while noting that the situation unfolding in Missouri reflects a deep-seated frustration in the city’s African-American community about police harassment and excessive force.
Those frustrations also exist here in Durham, where we have also seen teargas on our streets, and where the racial disparities in law enforcement are even more pronounced than they are in Ferguson. The City Manager’s recommendations, while a step in the right direction, will not change that. While we are glad to see the city finally embrace data review as a management tool to catch problem officers, the City Manager has rejected the HRC recommendation that stood the best chance of measurably reducing large racial disparities in warrantless vehicle searches—the adoption of an across-the-board mandatory written consent-to-search policy. The policy changes relating to home and premises searches are positive developments, but they will not impact most citizen-police interactions, which occur in the context of vehicle stops.
The department has asserted that requiring consent to search be documented in writing during traffic stops would undermine officers’ “situational control,” but this is a false argument. Many police departments that have committed to eliminating racial profiling have embraced this policy without a correlative negative effect on law enforcement. The current policy, which the City Manager would leave unchanged, privileges the convenience of police officers over the right of Durham citizens to be free of racially discriminatory search practices. And the Manager’s decision to make the Department write a report explaining why it only seems to arrest black people for marijuana will make for interesting reading, but it will do nothing to stop the ongoing racial discrimination in drug enforcement.
This report would not exist but for the fact that the Mayor directed the Human Relations Commission to investigate racial discrimination by the police, and yet this report says very little about the issue of race. You cannot have a race neutral solution to a race-based problem. We continue to believe that racial equity considerations—and not the practices of “peer cities”—should guide the city’s deliberations. We hope that when City Council takes this issue up later this month that they keep this in the forefront of their minds.
The five FADE Coalition policy recommendations, proposed to City Council in September 2013 are as follows:
(1) Mandate use of written consent-to-search forms for all consent based searches.
(2) Designate marijuana enforcement the city’s lowest law enforcement priority.
(3) Mandate the periodic review of racial stop, search, and arrest data as an officer management tool.
(4) Mandate racial equity training for all Durham police officers.
(5) Strengthen the mandate and authority of the Durham Civilian Police Review Board.
These recommendations have been endorsed by the following organizations: ACLU of North Carolina; Action NC; Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People; Durham Congregations in Action; Durham Congregations, Associations & Neighborhoods (CAN); Durham N.A.A.C.P.; Durham People’s Alliance; George H. White Bar Association; NC Public Defenders’ Committee on Racial Equity; Southern Coalition for Social Justice; Southerners on New Ground (SONG).