Protesters demand changes in Durham Police Department


Activists marched from the police department to City Hall blasting what they say is a culture of racism within the department. They are concerns and complaints that have been simmering for months in the Bull City.

With a soft chant, and a litany of complaints about the police department, these protesters complained of racial profiling of black motorists, and minority suspects incarcerated at a higher rate than whites.

Matt Gates told ABC11 that he often sees his African-American neighbors treated differently than he is.

"I can drive around and get away with things that other folks can't," said Gates. "I've watched some of my neighbors be pulled over for inching two inches past a stop sign."

Many of the concerns were aimed at the city's embattled police chief. Jose Lopez.

Defense Attorney David Hall was in attendance as well. He's still recovering from a June drive-by shooting, and an alleged comment by Lopez, that Hall "deserved to be shot" because he was a public defender.

Lopez has since apologized for the comment he doesn't recall making.

"I think his apology speaks for itself and I'd like to move on from that," said Hall.

Some protesters, however, are not so forgiving.

"It's time for him [Lopez] to move on," said community activist Victoria Peterson.

Peterson says the community has lost confidence in Lopez, and it's not coming back.

"Not when you make the racial statements, when you overlook African-American people for promotions, not when you hire your nephew who has a criminal record," said Peterson.

The city has cleared Lopez of nepotism, and a federal civil rights complaint filed by an assistant chief is still ongoing.

Organizers at the march, however, say their complaints are much more than just Lopez.

"It's not about one person," said Hall. "Removing one element will not change anything. We have to really examine the culture."

On Thursday, many of the same protestors will take their concerns to a citizens' forum at City Hall. They've got a list of demands for city leaders aimed at more transparency and accountability in matters of policing Durham.

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