Durham Police Department

East Durham, Durham, Police, Poverty, EDCI
Leoneda Inge / WUNC

Editor's note: This story is part of an occasional series on what area community leaders and residents are doing to balance "peace and pride" in their neighborhoods.

Every Friday in the basement of the Maureen Joy Charter School on South Driver Street in Durham, families get a bag of food packed with oatmeal, fruit bars, noodles, tuna, fruit boxes and more.

Nathan Rupert via Flickr Creative Commons

Durham Police officers disproportionately pulled over black male drivers during traffic stops from 2010 to 2015, and officers focusing on drug and law enforcement were more likely to stop black drivers than those in any other unit, according to a study released Thursday.

Image of special agent Rosalynde Fenner
Rosalynde Fenner

Rosalynde Fenner has always been fearless. As a young kid growing up in Durham, she called cabs for herself and took them alone wherever she wanted to go. In high school, she spent a week doing ride-alongs with an officer in the Durham Police Department. And at the age of 22, she embarked on a 25 year career as a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, including stints in Guatemala, Bolivia, New York City, and Puerto Rico. 

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez speaks to a group of concerned citizens during a community meeting in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 18, 2008.
AP Photo/Gerry Broome / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Durham is launching a national search for a new chief of police.

City Manager Tom Bonfield asked current Chief Jose Lopez to step down after residents and City Council members reported deep dissatisfaction with the police department. The 59-year-old Lopez will retire at the end of the month.

Durham spokeswoman Beverly Thompson said it will be crucial that the new police chief be experienced and prioritize communication with the public.

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.
Brian Turner / Flickr 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.

Durham City Council hears recommendations from City Manager on how to improve police and community relations (photo of city council).
Jorge Valencia

  The Durham Police Department has been accused of racial profiling, which led the Human Relations Commission to recommend changes in policy and procedure in May.

Photo: Rows of people, the Durham City Council and Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield
Jorge Valencia

The Durham city manager presented the city council recommendations in a packed hearing on Thursday to improve the relationship between the police and minority groups.

It's a long-awaited response to an investigation by the city's Human Relations Commission on claims that the police targets minorities. In his report, city manager Tom Bonfield had some clear findings.

"Our review and the data tells us in some areas, unexplained racial disparities do exist," Bonfield said to the council.

A portrait og Tom Bonfield
City of Durham

Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield is recommending that the Police Department require officers to complete racial equality training.

It's just one of dozens of points from a 131-page report his office compiled in response to complaints of racial bias and profiling within the department.

City Manager Tom Bonfield wrote that he reviewed the recommendations with the police department and six community advocacy groups.

Durham Police
Durham Police Department

The Durham Police Department is investigating an incident in which an officer lied about receiving a 911 call from a residence to gain access to the home and serve a warrant.

The officer told a District Court judge in May that it was a common practice within Durham's police department.

Police Chief Jose Lopez issued a memo to the department stating that fabricating 911 calls is not a policy.

City Manager Tom Bonfield says he assumes this is an isolated incident, but that it's unacceptable and bears investigation.

A portrait og Tom Bonfield
City of Durham

Spurred by complaints about racial bias in the Durham Police Department, City Manager Tom Bonfield said he'll review recommendations to improve relations with the community.

“I recognize the critical importance of a trusting relationship between a community police department and the community. And I also recognize that and the end of the day, I'm responsible for the actions of the department and how that plays out in terms of the relationship.”

James Williams
Leoneda Inge

Community organizations and faith-based groups in Durham are calling for a series of measures to help end what they call "racial profiling" by the Durham Police Department.

Representatives of the NAACP, Durham Congregations in Action, Fostering Alternatives in Drug Enforcement -- or FADE -- and several other groups are pushing for five main changes.

Southern Coalition for Social Justice logo
southerncoalition.org

 

  

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Host Frank Stasio talks with Ian Mance, a civil rights attorney for the Southern Coalition of Social Justice, and Frank Baumgartner, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Baumgartner published a statewide study tracking racial disparities in police stop-and-search practices. He later worked with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice to analyze Durham-specific data.

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez
http://durhamnc.gov/

In the last year, the Durham Police Department has faced public criticism surrounding search policies and three police-related deaths.  The NAACP of North Carolina questioned the police actions in the case of Jesus Huerta, a 17 year-old who died in police custody.

Advocacy organizations like the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Fostering Alternative Drug Enforcement (FADE) have raised accusations of racial profiling.

The department maintains that racial discrepancies in crime statistics do not indicate discrimination. They issued a report in response to the criticism.

In response to public outcry, the Human Relations Commission will make recommendations to the City Council for procedural reforms in police governance in May. 

Durham Police
Durham Police Department

Durham city officials are looking into a complaint that police made inappropriate payments to drug informants.

An advocacy group says police paid informants and didn’t disclose it, which is required by law.

Attorneys from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice also say police unfairly target black and Hispanic people. The department denies any wrongdoing.

City of Durham/Durhamnc.gov

    

Two local advocacy groups released documents showing the Durham Police Department made payments to informants in criminal matters.

Durham Police
Durham Police Department

An advocacy group says the Durham Police Department has been paying bonuses to crime informants for help in the conviction of suspects.

Attorneys from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice have obtained police records that they say show nine people were convicted in drug cases where an informant was paid for his testimony.

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