Durham Police Department

An image of former Durham Police Chief Steve Chalmers
Durham Police Department

Taylor Walker, 16, is a senior at Northern High School in Durham.

Our series from WUNC's Youth Reporting Institute concludes with a look at the relationship between the African American community and law enforcement. We explore the issue through the eyes of Youth Reporter Taylor Walker. She's a senior at Northern High School in Durham and grew up around law enforcement. In fact, her mom works for the Durham Police Department.

The black community is having a pretty hard time trusting law enforcement—especially the youth. A lot of us think, "Cops are out to get me."

But Steve Chalmers, the former Chief of Police for Durham, said otherwise. 

Jose Lopez, Durham Police Department
Durham Police Department

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez will retire at the end of 2015, the city announced Tuesday. The department has come under fire in recent years, especially after 17-year-old Latino Jesus Huerta died from a gunshot wound while in police custody in 2013.

"The last two years have been difficult for law enforcement, but together we have weathered it in a manner in which we can all be proud," Lopez wrote in a letter to his department.

A picture of a gavel on a document.
creative commons


Updated Friday, August 14, 3:15 p.m.

Carlos Antonio Riley was acquitted Friday of shooting Durham Officer Kelly Stewart in the leg at a traffic stop three years ago. The jury convicted Riley of only common law robbery.

Riley, 24, is charged with robbery with a firearm, common law robbery, reckless driving, felonious larceny from a person, assault on law enforcement inflicting serious injury, and assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer. 

An image of a police officer speaking
Charlie Shelton / WUNC

How much will it cost? When would it be recording? Who could access the videos? These are a few questions that have surrounded the public forums about body cameras hosted by the Durham Police Department. But Tuesday evening's forum prompted a different question:

What will it change?

Window and Wooden Boards
Sherrie Thai / https://flic.kr/p/6vjNqk

The city of Durham is no longer using plywood to cover up windows and doors in abandoned buildings.

Faith Gardner works for city's Neighborhood Improvement Services Department.

"If you're living in a neighborhood with boarded structures, they don't look good, you can tell that they've been abandoned, there's also an attraction there for criminal activity."

Gardner says a new, clear, polycarbonate material has been installed in ten vacant homes, with more to come. She adds that it improves the appearance of the buildings and allows police to look inside.

The Durham police department.
Ildar Sagdejev / Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Department of Justice has confirmed racial discrepancies when it comes to gun-related violence in Durham. 

 The report released yesterday shows that from 2009 to 2012, the homicide rate for young black men in Durham was eight times higher than the national average.

Durham Police at Jesus Huerta protest in December 2013
Laura Lee


Across the nation, protestors have taken to the street to call for reforms in police action. The protests come in the wake of  two grand juries declining to indict police officers who killed Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

From the coast to the mountains, activists in North Carolina have joined the movement calling for greater police accountability.

crime scene tape
Ian Britton / Flickr/Creative Commons

There have been 17 murders in Durham so far this year, a number that is pretty average for the past five years or so in the city.  But the Durham Police Department isn't just focusing on investigations that are current, they are also making an effort to investigate more than 150 murders that are still unsolved. 

Sergeant David Piatt, with the Homicide Investigation Unit is keenly aware that the families of those victims are still waiting for answers,.

"I don't think you can say one person is more important than the other.  They all deserve closure,"  he says.

Photo: Durham Police headquarters
Durham Police

Members of the Durham City Council are trying to address concerns that police officers disproportionately stop and search black men. Four of the seven members gave their support on Thursday afternoon for requiring officers to get a driver's written consent before searching his vehicle.

City manager Tom Bonfield has suggested officers should be required to get consent in some recorded form - either video, audio or writing - but Mayor Bill Bell says that overcomplicates things.

Photo: The Durham City Council debated night to require police officers get written consent from drivers before being able to search a vehicle.
Jorge Valencia

In Durham, members of the city council want to require police to get written consent from drivers before searching a vehicle.

The debate over vehicle searches stems from complaints that some Durham officers have unfairly targeted minorities.

Some residents and community groups say black men are often arbitrarily stopped and searched.