Commission says there's evidence of racial bias from Durham police officers


After several public hearings, the Commission submitted its formal response to concerns raised by several community groups, including the NAACP, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Fostering Alternative Drug Enforcement also known as F.A.D.E.

Click here to read the full report (.pdf)

"We found the existence of racial bias and profiling present in the Durham Police Department practices," wrote the Human Relations Commission in its two-page report submitted to the Durham City Manager late Tuesday night.

The Commission's report includes dozens of recommendations, including changing the police department's approach to public relations and community awareness. From officer mental health evaluations to Racial Equity training, the list of suggestions also focuses on the officers themselves.

The Human Relations Commission also takes wants city leaders to consider changes to the Citizens Police Review Board, the entity that reviews citizen complaints investigated by the police department's Internal Affairs Unit.

"We recommend that City Council move to an alternate model where the complaints themselves, rather than the Internal Affairs review process, undergo investigation by the Citizens Police Review Board," the report said.

The Durham Police Department has issued at least three reports of its own in response to the allegations of bias and racial profiling. Most recently, the department said a review of traffic stop data suggests only a small percentage of thousands of drivers in the city over several years resulted in consent searches. The department has admitted there are some racial disparities within that small group, but they deny it's because officers are biased.  

"A more fair and accurate test of police bias is to compare the percentage of suspected criminal who are black with the percentage of arrested criminals who are black," the department's Command Staff wrote in a published report. "Such a comparison should indicate if the police are unfairly targeting minorities or simply arresting criminals where they find them."

The police department has said it's already working on some real solutions to citizen concerns, including developing a way to better analyze individual officer traffic stops, providing officers with additional diversity training and notifying citizens of the outcomes of officer complaints by releasing information otherwise protected under the city's personnel policy. 

A spokesperson says the Mayor and the City Council have yet to review the Human Relations Commission report.

The City Council will decide whether to implement the commission's recommendations. 

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