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[pasted from my Facebook post on this from earlier this evening] I know I've been talking a lot about tomorrow night's City Council meeting -- and the vote we'll take on the contract to spend over half a million dollars to deploy police-worn body cameras here in the city of Durham. If making this investment could produce benefits for the people of this city commensurate with the costs, I would support it. But the final draft of the body camera policy released this week by the Durham Police Department is deeply flawed. Unless this policy is substantially revised to incorporate significant guarantees for transparency and accountability, police-worn body cameras just aren't worth the cost to our city. Here are just a handful of the problems with this policy: -- The Chief of Police is empowered to order the alteration or deletion of any body camera video recording, at any time, for any reason, and subject to no limitations whatsoever. That is a major problem. (page 5) -- There should be a presumption within the policy that body camera recordings that depict a use of force by a Durham police officer should be made public (subject to redaction to protect an ongoing criminal investigation or the identity of police informants or juveniles). The final draft of the policy contains no such presumption. -- The policy creates a perverse incentive for officers to activate their cameras and record video in circumstances explicitly prohibited by the policy itself, because recordings made in violation of the prohibitions contained in the policy are nonetheless *required* to be retained if they could subsequently be used in a criminal investigation. (page 4) -- Officers have the right to review video recordings captured by their body cameras in order to "enhance the accuracy" of their written report, but ordinary citizens have no corresponding right prior to making statements to law enforcement. (page 2) -- The recent addition to the policy of the right of a complainant to view the body camera recording of the incident that gave rise to the complaint is certainly a welcome one, but the limitations under which that right is granted render the provision nearly useless. Why is the viewing of a recording depicting discharge of a firearm by an officer or serious injury or death subject to the prior approval of the Chief of Police? And why not allow the complainant to take a copy of the video recording in question with them after they have viewed it? -- The Chief of Police should be required to inform the City Manager and the City Council if she has failed to release a video recording pursuant to an external request within 30 days. If the City Manager and the City Council are to have a meaningful opportunity to exercise their independent authority under this policy to release body camera recordings, the Chief of Police must be required to inform them that she has not complied with such an outside request -- and to provide an explanation for that failure to release the recording in question. (page 7) -- Likewise, there is no obligation on the part of the Durham Police Department to provide periodic reports to the City Manager and the City Council about issues surrounding the body camera program. The Chief of Police should be required to report such information to the City Manager and the City Council, including but not limited to the following: how often and under what circumstances officers did not activate their body cameras as required by the policy (or did activate their cameras when prohibited by the policy); how often and under what circumstances video recordings were requested pursuant to a request internal to the police department; how often and under what circumstances video recordings have been redacted, altered or deleted (other than routine purging at the end of the retention period); the circumstances surrounding any malfunctions in the video retention system; how often and under what circumstances officers otherwise violated the policy in relation to the use of body cameras; and information regarding the disciplinary action taken against officers for such violations.
There are 178,957 registered voters who live within the city limits of Durham. Over 30% of them (almost 55,000 voters) live in the 4th Congressional District. That second paragraph above needs some adjustment. :)
Kevin, For once in my life, I'm almost speechless. Almost. :) Thank you. I'll work hard every day to earn this vote of confidence. Cheers, Charlie Reece
Natalie: I absolutely agree on the "deserving poor" argument. I think it comes from wanting to make the most persuasive possible argument, but it ends up pathologizing regular folks who have all sorts of problems in their lives who nonetheless need safe, healthy housing that they can afford. And sorry for all the mailers. I think you'll only get one more between now and Election Day! The paper we're using is very recylcable.
Natalie: I apologize that my remarks in the video oversimplified an issue that you have lived for many years. It was not my intent to minimize the hard work you have done to keep your community whole since buying your home. You have done everything we could ask a new neighbor to do, and for that you should be applauded. But I do believe that many new homeowners to some of our historic neighborhoods have not worked nearly as hard as you have to integrate themselves into the existing social networks of those neighborhoods. Your experience should be viewed as a model for such new homeowners. Again, I am sorry that I boiled it down to "young people can't rely on facebook." In the interest of time, I oversimplified an important issue in a way that annoyed you, and you were absolutely right to be annoyed. I'll work harder in the future to make sure I don't gloss over the hard work folks like you are doing in their neighborhoods every day.
Thanks for this first installment, Lisa! I've been eagerly awaiting this series, and this first piece doesn't disappoint. Can't wait to see what's next!
By the way, that New York Times article about rising murder rates in selected US cities has been somewhat discredited as cherry-picking. Here's one piece that looks at the whole picture and finds that, in reality, crime hasn't changed much in recent years. Anyway, as to the story itself, I'm grateful that Durham will get a fresh start and new leadership at police headquarters. I trust that the city manager will get input from the broadest possible range of voices in our community about the qualities we need in a new police chief, and that he will find us the right person for this moment in Durham.
Kelly: The inability of our political system (state and federal) to pass common sense gun safety measures is clearly a contributing factor to the gun violence we're seeing in Durham right now. No other industrialized nation is as awash in guns as ours, and our high rates of gun violence are the price we pay for the ready availability of firearms in this country. It's deplorable, and it must change, but the Durham City Council has a limited role in that debate. BCR4Life: Excellent points. I'd just add that there are no easy answers, but the work has to begin with listening to those who are directly impacted by the recent surge in violent crime. That's why I was at the meeting at the Golden Corral. It was my intent only to listen and learn, but Rodney asked me to share my thoughts near the end of the meeting and so I did. But white progressives need to listen more, leave behind our preconceptions about what is needed by people in communities disproportionately impacted by crime, and be ready to deploy our time and money in support of grassroots efforts led by folks in such communities. That's harder than it ought to be for progressive whites like me because we're used to being in charge. But it's time for us to listen, to learn, and to boost the signal and the work of movements that are rising organically out of these neighborhoods. That's why I'll be at the next Walk For Life event on September 19th.
Thanks so much for publishing this thoughtful and honest piece on the problem of crime in Durham, and the way many of us who identify as progressive talk about it (or don't). There is no issue facing Durham that I take more seriously than how to address the growing problem of crime. In every conversation I have with voters as I go door-to-door across this city, I talk about our need to respond to the recent surge in violent crime in Durham. By way of explanation, most of my legal career has been spent within the criminal justice system -- first as a prosecutor, then as an assistant attorney general in the North Carolina Department of Justice, then as a pro bono lawyer for Moral Mondays arrestees. This is an issue about which I have a real passion and a lifelong commitment. I have proposed a series of policies that would have a long term impact on the problem of crime in Durham -- economic development that doesn't leave struggling communities behind, investments in infrastructure in neighborhoods which have suffered from decades and generations of disinvestment and neglect, and ensuring that housing remains affordable for working families. Generally speaking, people with jobs that pay a living wage and who have a decent place to live by and large don't commit violent crimes. In addition, as Rodney Williams told us at the Golden Corral last week, gang members who have spoken with him have pointed to the recent surge in development downtown and said "What about my neighborhood?" In addition to making the kind of policy choices described above, our city must do a better job of making the case that investments in one part of Durham yield benefits that are broadly shared by all of Durham and result in a prosperity that is broadly shared across Durham. In addition to these longer term policy initiatives, we must grapple with the broken relationship between the Durham Police Department and many Durham residents. Until we restore public trust and confidence in our police, this city will continue to suffer. While I respect and appreciate the fact that the hiring and firing of the chief of police is within the purview of Durham's city manager, I have come to believe that the Durham Police Department needs new leadership if we are to begin rebuilding the relationship between the police and our city. We must also commit to a policing model that focuses on direct community engagement by patrol officers built on daily interactions between the police and the Durham residents they seek to protect and serve. We should also reallocate scarce law enforcement resources away from arrests for some non-violent misdemeanor offenses and toward preventing and investigating violent crime (which is up sharply from last year). I believe these steps would begin to heal the rift between our police and our community. Last summer, I was proud to lead the work of the Durham People's Alliance in support of the policy recommendations of the FADE Coalition to reduce the racial disparities in the drug enforcement practices of our police department. That effort is still a work in progress, but the broad coalition of community organizations that FADE was able to put together is a model for how we can achieve real change in Durham. The key: we all focused on boosting the underlying message of the FADE Coalition and their policy recommendations, with no single organization caring who got the credit for our ultimate success. If we can put together a similar coalition to address the problem of crime in Durham -- on both the long term answers outlined above as well as some of the issues dealing directly with the Durham Police Department -- I believe we can begin to make real progress. Building this sort of coalition won't be easy, and it won't happen overnight. But if we are to be successful in this work, we must begin by sitting together and talking honestly about the problems facing Durham. That's why I was at the Golden Corral last week. And that's how I intend to serve this city on the Durham City Council.
That story about sidewalks was a real eye-opener for lots of folks here in Durham, myself definitely included (and the current members of the city council, according to the article). It's easy to see how various levels of planning, review, permitting and contracting can become encrusted around the process of building new sidewalks in a way that can be pretty burdensome, but the timelines described in that story seem beyond the pale. I have every confidence in Marvin Williams and our city's hard-working public works department, but I still have to believe that there are some best practices from other cities that Durham could benefit from studying if we want to streamline this process. I'm not saying we'll whittle this thing down to China-like speeds (nor would I want to, speed like that often sacrifices quality and safety), but there's just got to be a better way.
Also, to answer Ruby's question above, I am 100% certain that a fantastic woman candidate will file for city council this week, and I'm told that at least one other woman is leaning towards running as well. It's going to be a large field, with plenty of competing visions for Durham's future, and that's good for Durham.
Here's a link to the Durham BOE document listing the candidates who have filed for the 2015 municipal elections: I *believe* they're updating the document at that link throughout the day, but if not, a link to the most up to date list can be found right on the BOE website here:
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Jul 7, 2015