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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Changes in store for Durham Civilian Police Review Board

Posted by on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 8:20 PM

The Durham Civilian Police Review Board made a list of recommendations to change how it conducts its business, but scheduled a vote on these proposals for next month.

At its Feb. 26 meeting, the board announced it would vote on proposed recommendations to its scope and duties. These aspects of the board have been sharply criticized by many members of the public in light of several officer-related shootings by the Durham Police Department.

"We were told to our face: 'What are you doing, what can you do and how can you change?'" Carlos Siu, board vice chair, said.

Yet, at sparsely attended meeting Wednesday night—there were just four members of the public in the audience—the board laid out potential improvements and changes to the scope of its duties.

The board did not vote on the recommendations, saying it needs more time to finesse the language and develop the proposal more thoroughly. It scheduled its next meeting for the evening of Monday, April 7.

Here is a list of the recommendations:
  • The complaint form should be modified and made more publicly accessible.
  • A complainant has 30 days, up from the current limit of 14 days, to appeal the determination letter of the internal affairs department.
  • A staff member of internal affairs should be available for questions by the board.
  • The response letter to complainants should include the range of disciplinary actions that could have been taken, plus list the policy the board and IA used to assess the officer.
  • The board should issue a quarterly performance review report submitted by internal affairs.
  • Annual reports of the board should be posted on the city manager's website.
  • The board would hold one community form per year.
  • Develop a pamphlet that explains the scope and duties of the board.
  • The board's letter to complainants would list the range of discipline that can be assessed on an officer.
  • Include language on the city manager's website that explains the open records laws regarding the police department. Anyone can request and obtain records showing a list of suspensions, demotions and terminations of officers—and the dates of those actions.
  • Customize the letter that goes to complainants explaining how the board arrived at its conclusion. Currently it's a form letter
  • Review the board's policy manual to clarify the language and reduce the legal jargon.

"People are asking that what this board is saying and doing will have some authority," said board chair DeWarren Langley. "Within the confines of the law we should ease comfort for people once file a complaint with board response will have some weight or authority. It's going to be difficult on our part. "

To the point that residents don't trust the process, earlier in the meeting, two Durham residents, James Michael Lynch and Renee Daunay, had requested appeal hearings before the board. Lynch attended the meeting, but per board policy, could not be in the room during closed session when the panel discussed his case. The board denied both appeal requests.

Robin Dean Bell, who spoke last month before the Human Relations Commission, also attended. She alleged she was racially profiled. She said a police officer stopped her as she was delivering food to a friend, and searched her car for drugs without her permission. No drugs were found. Bell told the INDY that she complained to the officer that she was being racially profiled, and he allegedly called her "an idiot."

Lynch complained that city police refused to investigate vandalism against his car, which was parked in a county parking deck near the courthouse. The car had decals on it critical of the sheriff's department; those decals had been defaced and ripped from the car exterior. Lynch told the INDY that a city police officer told him that it would take too much paperwork to investigate the case.

In other business, City Manager Tom Bonfield has selected a new board member to fill the vacancy left by James Elam. That person has yet to accept the appointment, so he or she was not named at the meeting. The new member will serve until 2015.

Look for updates in next week's INDY.

As of April, 28 2014 certain names involved in this blog post have been corrected due to inaccuracy.

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