Group calls for reform, transparency in Raleigh Police

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Concerned Raleigh citizens call for police reforms and oversights.

Raleigh City Council got an earful Monday night about how to reform the city's police department.

Community activists aligned with the group PACT led the charge. The Police Accountability and Community Task Force is more than a year old, but the deadly police shooting of Akiel Denkins in southeast Raleigh on Feb. 29, gave the group renewed purpose.

Outside City Hall, the group came bearing signs. Some read, "Justice for Akiel" and "Black Lives Matter." But the group also came to deliver a petition, a list of demands to reform Raleigh PD.

"We as the citizens of Raleigh ask for transparency! That is why we ask for a seat at the table to decide the oversight board," said Kimberly Muktarian at a rally before the meeting.

When the public-hearing portion began, they came one by one to bring their demands to city councilors. They want a community oversight board with subpoena power to hold officers accountable. They want officers to make marijuana possession a lower-level priority.

"Wake County arrest data shows that black people are going to jail for possession of small amounts of marijuana at significant higher rates," said Geraldine Alshamy as she addressed the council.

The group applauded the city's move to start a five-year pilot program to equip every officer with a body camera. But they want the city to immediately begin drawing up rules of the road for the body-camera program. They expressed concerns about privacy for victims of domestic-violence calls, and they want public access to the videos.

"At the very least, the subjects of any recordings should have access to those recordings, ideally a copy of those recordings," said Sarah Preston with ACLU of North Carolina.

Raleigh City Attorney Thomas McCormick raised objections about whether City Council has the authority to grant subpoena power to a community oversight board.

"We agree with the comments made by the city attorney," said Matt Cooper, President of the Raleigh Police Protective Association, the police union.

Cooper also agreed with McCormick that city councilors, the grand jury, and independent investigators at the SBI provide more than enough accountability for his officers.

"We would like to say that issues and perceived problems in other areas of the country are not indicative of what is going on in the city of Raleigh," Cooper said

The ACLU concedes a community oversight board with subpoena power for investigations would likely require legislation from the General Assembly. And, that is unlikely to happen. But the ACLU points to cities such as Greensboro, which has a city staff sit on its civilian review board for police that can issue subpoenas.

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