Ex-Durham officer says reform, understanding needed

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A former Durham top cop now helps advise residents on how to best deal with police interactions.

"You know the cliche, 'Police officers are social workers?' asked former Durham Police Deputy Chief B.J. Council, "nothing wrong with it."

Council, who said she started out wanting to go into social work, said especially these days, it's particularly important for police to have additional training in skills that don't involve guns.

"They still need the training that they're getting but you may have to start adding in empathy, how to interact, how to talk, de-escalation. Acknowledge the fact that you may have some biases. That kind of training need to be, almost, just as important as driving and shooting."

Policing experts say most departments are offering some of this kind of training but Council says it needs to be a much bigger part of the curriculum in policing programs.

After the police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota, Council put this post on Facebook:

"The reality is," Council said Monday, "some officers, depending on their background, don't know how to interact with black males. It's a new day. It's a new community with new individuals and they are demanding more of their organization and that's what they should be getting."

In 2015, Council started the non-profit "You and Five-O," dedicated to helping people understand what to do if they have a run-in with police. Her rule is simple: comply and complain. "You hear a lot of people talk about we shouldn't have to do that but this is where we are today. We're in a position that when you interact with law enforcement, you do what you need to do in order to survive the interaction."

Council's advice to those skeptical that complaining will get them anywhere: start the process early and go up the chain of command. Ask for a supervisor and get your complaint in as soon as possible.

"We have to start somewhere," she continued. "You have to survive the interaction in order to complain. People have to be a part of the system or get into the system to make the system change. You just can't sit back."

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