Durham leaders reject police department's request to add 18 officers

Tuesday, June 18, 2019
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Durham has 524 sworn officers, and the city's newest budget will not contain money to hire more.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham has 524 sworn officers, and the city's newest budget will not contain money to hire more.

Durham leaders rejected Durham Police Department's $1.2 million dollar budget request for 18 additional officers.

"This is a win. This is most definitely a win," Mariah Monsanto stated. She and other activists from the coalition Durham Beyond Policing said the community should share the responsibility of keeping neighborhoods safe.

Durham Beyond Policing and other activists believe more officers are not the way to make neighborhoods safer.

In a 50-page proposal-the group outlines community initiatives, some funded by the city-for expungement clinics, creating affordable housing, jobs and training for conflict resolution-as an alternative.

"It's about creating a body of people to do a more thorough assessment on how to serve community and practice community care without police," Monsanto said.

Latiqua Gee agrees. She's a mother of four who lives in McDougald Terrance, a community notorious for gun violence.

"More police doesn't make the difference. What makes the difference when they all care about us the same."

However, DPD said part of the reason it requested more money to hire more officers was to build better relationships with neighbors.

In a statement, Chief Cerlelyn Davis said her department will use its available resources to function at a high level.

Some neighbors at last night's budget vote said opponents are confusing over-policing with police presence.

"Put it back in the budget. We need those officers," neighbor Victoria Peterson said.

"I am a mother of a murdered child," neighbor Gloria Washington said.

Year-to-date, Durham has seen 21 homicides this year. At the same time last year the number was 13, two years ago nine.

But City Councilman Mark-Anthony Middleton said public safety overall is improving in Durham.

He voted against the budget.

"You don't protect against over-policing by ceasing hiring. You protect against over-policing by letting it be known that egregious acts will be met swiftly by leadership in this city," Middleton said.

The new budget does add money to hire two police staffers to help with forensic testing.

The money that would have gone toward new officers will increase the pay for minimum wage part-time city workers to $15 an hour.