The sixth and latest meeting examining racial profiling and police misconduct in Durham took place on Tuesday, January 14, 2014. SCSJ’s partner, SpiritHouse, led the meeting between the Durham FADE coalition and the Durham Human Relations Commisssion, which drew an incredibly large and diverse audience: over one hundred people attended and reflected a real cross section of the Durham community—elected officials, concerned mothers, news media, members of the faith community, service providers, young people and others. Conspicuously absent were any representatives of the Durham Police Department.
Chief Lopez, in a recent interview in the Independent said “I have yet to hear from someone about how angry they are about the things they’re reading in the papers.” Had he come to the meeting last night, he might feel otherwise.
The meeting began with a group of mothers sharing stories about disturbing experiences with law enforcement, painting a picture of a Durham where black children become suspects simply by their mere presence in the community. One mother described the catch 22 of telling children to turn off the TV and get outside only to have them harassed by the police as they walk down the street to a restaurant. Another mother recounted her experience living abroad and the bizarre realization that she and her family felt more safe and welcome in Romania than in Durham. According to these women, black mothers in our neighborhoods are more afraid of law enforcement than any other threat their kids may face.
A screening of the documentary film, The House I Live In, followed and set a larger, national context for the War on Drugs and how it is waged in communities across the United States. Next SCSJ’s Daryl Atkinson presented data on the racial disparities in marijuana arrests in Durham. At that point, you could almost hear the connecting of dots among audience members between the film and the reality on the ground in Durham, providing the spark that lit up the final Q&A portion of the meeting. There were many questions and concerns regarding how to operationalize one of FADE’s five recommendations—making marijuana a lowest level law enforcement priority. But City Council member Cora Cole-McFadden put a stop to all the doubters—asking Commissioners to think about the possibilities instead of the obstacles. Bring us ideas and options and bring them to us soon, the council member added.
SCSJ is set to lead the next HRC hearing on Wednesday, January 22nd at 6pm at City Hall. We hope to see you there! At that hearing, SCSJ attorney Ian A. Mance will present newly-available statistical evidence of racial profiling in the context of traffic stops. He will respond to criticisms DPD leveled against the FADE Coalition in the department’s presentation to the HRC in December, and will also present individual accounts of profiling from directly-impacted members of the Durham community. Following his presentation, our partners in the FADE Coalition will join him in presenting a series of policy proposals to end racial profiling and selective drug enforcement by Durham PD.
Post by Meredith McMonigle, SCSJ Macro Social Work Intern
Click here to support SCSJ’s work!
Read media coverage here: