Community meeting addresses racial profiling by Durham police

Several moms pleaded with the Durham Human Relations Commission to change the way police handle drug enforcement.
January 14, 2014 8:28:51 PM PST
Some Durham residents are expressing concern about what they describe as racial profiling by police. They want Durham leaders to change the way police enforce marijuana possession laws.

Several mothers stood before a packed room inside the Stanford Warren Library and shared stories of racial profiling.

"Walking in a neighborhood should not be something that triggers a criminal report," said Tia Hall.

The lack of feeling safe in Durham when it comes to law enforcement was addressed. One mother said she felt safer living in Romania.

"We were human beings assuming our humanity, assuming the goodness without questioning our motives," said Camryn Smith.

These stories, they say, are symptoms of what the FADE Coalition says is a bigger issue. The group deals with issues of social justice.

They are pleading with the Durham Human Relations Commission to change the way police handle drug enforcement particularly marijuana.

Their research shows the number of people who use marijuana is almost neck and neck when it comes to blacks and whites. However, they say the majority of those in jail for it are black.

They want the commission to recommend to the city making possession of marijuana the lowest enforcement priority for police, and, instead of slapping handcuffs on people, offer drug treatment or counseling.

While some commissioners agree, others worry about how feasible that is.

"My concern is with the funding. I think it's a good idea but you know, just wait until we get all the parts together before making those kinds of recommendations," said Ricky Hart, of the Durham Human Relations Commission.

Recommendations are still coming in for what will be a long process to try to address the concerns of the community, and the mothers of the next generation.

"Right now, there is no trust in my community," said Smith.

Overall, this is a heavy issue the commission is taking on and an ongoing conversation. They still have several meetings with other parts of the community, such as the NAACP, before making any recommendation to the city for any specific changes, and how to even implement them.

The Durham police told ABC11 they had no comment on the issues at Tuesday's meeting.

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