Since early 2013, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, in conjunction with our partners in the FADE coalition, has been sounding the alarm with city leaders about racially disparate policing practices in our hometown of Durham, NC. SCSJ attorneys, analysts, and organizers have played a significant role in supporting members of directly affected communities in their efforts to hold the Durham Police Department accountable for its unlawful racial profiling and drug enforcement practices. As part of this effort, we created this new video to showcase the real stories of Durham residents who have experienced racial profiling and been subjected to abusive search practices.
Stories of Racial Profiling in Durham from SCSJ on Vimeo.
Racial Profiling Research
Working in conjunction with political scientists at UNC-Chapel Hill, SCSJ policy analyst Chris Ketchie and attorneys Ian Mance and Daryl Atkinson conducted an in depth statistical analysis of hundreds of thousands of traffic stops and thousands of drug arrests in Durham. The analysis lent powerful empirical support to long-standing community complaints about racialized policing. Among their many findings: Despite accounting for just 17.4% of the city population, black males make up more than 65% of the searched population. A black motorist is more than 100% more likely to be asked for consent to search, even though they are no more likely to be found with contraband than a similarly situated white motorist. Moreover, a black driver in Durham is 179% more likely to be ordered out of a vehicle and searched than a white driver, even after one accounts for age, gender, time of day, and the reason for the stop.
In October 2013, concerned with the numbers and stories being brought to his attention, Durham Mayor Bill Bell asked the city’s Human Relations Commission to investigate allegations that Durham PD had engaged in discriminatory policing. After an unprecedented seven months of hearings, which included rival presentations from SCSJ attorneys Daryl Atkinson and Ian Mance opposite the Durham Police Executive Command Staff, the 14-member commission, persuaded by the statistical evidence and testimony of those directly affected, issued its final report confirming “the existence of racial profiling” in the practices of the department.
Durham Human Relations Commission Racial Profiling Report
As part of its report, the commission published a series of 34 policy recommendations designed to stop racial profiling in Durham and to mitigate the racial disparities evident at every juncture of the city’s criminal justice system. Among the recommendations were five policy changes which had originally been proposed by the FADE coalition, calling for (1) the mandatory use of written consent-to-search forms for all consent-based searches; (2) the designation of marijuana enforcement as the city’s lowest law enforcement priority (LLEP)*; (3) the mandatory periodic review of individual officer stop and search data; (4) the integration of racial equity training into the department’s official training protocol; and (5) a total reform of the structure and mandate of the Durham Civilian Police Review Board.
These recommendations, which enjoy broad based community support, are now on the desk of Durham’s City Manager, Thomas Bonfield, who will inform City Council in August whether he is inclined to move forward with their implementation and how. Mr. Bonfield has spent the month of July meeting with concerned community groups, including SCSJ and FADE, and investigating the practices of other municipal police departments in North Carolina as they pertain to profiling, drug policy, and related issues.
As part of SCSJ’s presentation to the City Manager and his staff last week, and in keeping with SCSJ’s organizational strategy of empowering directly affected people and keeping their voices at the forefront of our efforts, our delegation presented Mr. Bonfield with this 38-minute documentary. The film, produced by SCSJ Troan Intern Evey Wilson and attorney Ian Mance, features stories Durham residents who have been stopped and subjected to invasive searches and uses of force for highly questionable reasons. It is our organization’s hope that city leaders will keep these individuals and their stories in mind as they move forward in their evaluation of the policies and practices of our city police department.
*Note: The HRC did not explicitly endorse marijuana deprioritization; however, it did call for the city to study the issue and to consult with the City of Seattle, which deprioritized (and later legalized) possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Post by SCSJ Attorney Ian A. Mance, Soros Justice Fellow
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