In a previous post, I discussed the important policy and training work that the Carrboro Police Department has done over the past year. Some of this work—such as developing a policy for the use of police cameras—predates the latest national wave of attention on law enforcement issues. Other work by the department is underway in response to questions and concerns that community members shared during the town’s October community forum on policing.
(I neglected to mention in my last post that the department also spent the past year training officers in the use of naloxone kits to reverse effects of heroin and other opiate overdoses. This initiative has already saved a life in Carrboro, the first such incident in North Carolina. It’s a good example of the department’s human services model of policing and another demonstration of Carrboro leading the way.)
Today I’m writing to provide an update on early progress on items in my previous summary and to share some notes from three meetings I attended recently.
First, a Few Updates
- In early December, Police Chief Walter Horton and both police captains attended an Organizing Against Racism racial equity workshop. The department is exploring opportunities for future training opportunities for administrative staff.
- The department is partnering with other law enforcement agencies in Orange and Durham Counties to enroll officers in the Fair and Impartial Policing “train the trainer” program, tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2015.
- The department is working with Orange County public defender James Williams and civil rights attorney Ian Mance of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice to develop reports for tracking data in the department’s record-keeping system. Also, at James Williams’s suggestion, the department has been in contact with the UCLA Center for Policing Equity to make arrangements for review of the department’s data.
- The department is planning another community forum on policing for June 2015.
- The department is in contact with the Durham Police Department to obtain information about its recently adopted policy to require written consent for searches.
- Finally, I expect that the Board of Aldermen will consider including body-worn police cameras in the town’s budget for the next fiscal year.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP Forum
I was pleased to be able to attend a forum on January 3 at the Rogers Road Community Center hosted by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Branch of the North Carolina NAACP. The forum, moderated by Carrboro activist Diane Robertson, featured a question-and-answer session with Chief Horton, Chief Chris Blue of Chapel Hill, and Sheriff Charles Blackwood.
The forum reaffirmed for me the central importance of acknowledging, understanding, and addressing racial disparities in law enforcement. Attendees of the forum also expressed interest in greater transparency related to law enforcement agency policies (for example, policies on the use of force) and procedures for filing and resolving complaints.
Meeting With Residents
Also on January 3, Alderwoman Michelle Johnson and I had the opportunity to meet with two Carrboro residents, Geoff Gilson and Amanda Ashley, who have been paying close attention to policing issues and advocating for changes in policing policies and methods.
As in the NAACP forum, an important feature of our conversation was transparency. We talked about the possibility of making existing policies more readily available. Questions related to whether policies could be published on the town website; rules of engagement and policies on the use of force; and the process for investigating uses of force (specifically, deadly force).
We also discussed bringing greater structure to ongoing efforts to engage the community in shaping law enforcement policy, and being clearer about next steps so that community members know about opportunities for participation. For example, we talked about formalizing the structure of upcoming community forums, particularly in relation to making the forums goal-oriented and requiring a follow-up report to the Board of Aldermen after each forum.
Shortly after the October community forum, the police chief raised the idea of focusing each subsequent forum on a particular policing topic. I like the idea of devoting forums to particular topics, identifying important questions and concerns on the basis of community participation in those forums, setting clear goals, and measuring and reporting outcomes. Stay tuned for the next forum, tentatively planned for June 2015.
UNC Law School Conference
Finally, on January 23, I was able to attend most of a daylong program on policing at the UNC School of Law. The conference, “Police Violence in the Wake of Ferguson and Staten Island,” was sponsored by the UNC Law Clinical Programs and the UNC Center for Civil Rights. (For a collection of tweets from the conference, including my own, check out the #UNC2Ferguson hashtag on Twitter.)
Speaker after remarkable speaker at the conference—scholars, lawyers, civil rights activists, and community organizers—offered insights into the racialized history of law enforcement in the United States, troubling overviews of traffic stop data in North Carolina municipalities (including dramatic numbers from Carrboro), and strategies for reducing racial disparities in policing.
A few links:
- Professor Frank Baumgartner of UNC Chapel Hill has analyzed data on 17 million traffic stops in North Carolina. See http://www.unc.edu/~fbaum/traffic.htm.
- Recommended reading from keynote speaker Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund: American Apartheid (Massey and Denton); Black Wealth, White Wealth (Oliver and Shapiro); Sundown Towns (Jim Loewen); The Warmth of Other Suns (Elizabeth Wilkerson); and “The Case for Reparations” (Coates).
I was glad to hear speakers talk not only about history and context, but also about solutions. Sherillyn Ifill offered three thoughts:
- Implicit bias training for law enforcement officers and other people in positions of public trust. This training should be seen as a part of the professionalism of policing.
- Body-worn cameras.
- Don’t simply stop implementing bad policies and making bad investments. Undertake policy changes and make investments that reverse the negative effects of previous and existing policies and investments.
Mark-Anthony Middleton, a pastor and community organizer, spoke about recent successes in Durham:
- mandatory periodic review of traffic stop data;
- mandatory racial equity training;
- less emphasis on enforcement of marijuana-related violations; and
- mandatory written consent for consensual searches of vehicles and homes.
These approaches are good starting points for discussion, and most are already under consideration in Carrboro. Please continue to be in touch with the Board of Aldermen at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have thoughts about policing and other issues. We want and need to hear from you.