Activists Make Progress With City of Raleigh on Police Accountability | News
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Friday, May 27, 2016

Activists Make Progress With City of Raleigh on Police Accountability

Posted by on Fri, May 27, 2016 at 4:01 PM

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The Raleigh city manager and city attorney reviewed a list of requests from a coalition of activists calling for more police accountability and issued a response this week.

On Wednesday evening, members of the Police Accountability and Community Task Force (PACT) met with city manager Ruffin Hall and other city leaders, where PACT members say city staff committed to implementing two of PACT’s policy recommendations, and to exploring others.

In March, just a few days after the shooting death of Akiel Denkins by a Raleigh officer, PACT submitted eight requests for police reforms to the city’s Human Relations Commission. The commission promised to pass it along to the city manager, attorneys and city council members.

The requests included implementing a police accountability oversight board; strengthening the city’s anti-bias policing policy by regularly reviewing individual officers’ stop-and-search data; de-prioritizing marijuana arrests; requiring written consent-to-search forms; implementing body camera policies; giving police officers more training; hiring more racially diverse officers through an internship program; rotating patrol schedules, and continuing to have conversations with residents of the city’s most policed communities.

According to a statement from activist Akiba Byrd, City staff agreed to immediately begin checking individual officers’ stop-and-search and resisting arrest data to detect bias, and agreed to requiring written consent-to-search forms prior to performing searches or pat-downs. Officers would also have to notify citizens of their right to refuse to consent to a search.

“We appreciate the opportunity to work collaboratively in these first steps toward creating accountability, equity and transparency in Raleigh policing,” said PACT member Geraldine Alshamy in a statement. “We take this as recognition of the fact that there is a problem. But building stronger community relations requires more than dialogue. We are urging the city to implement a series of reforms that will give citizens more power over how our communities are policed.”

City staff did not make commitments to increasing the number of Crisis Intervention-trained police officers (it says it is already leading on that issue statewide, with 242 officers who have received CI-training) and said it would not de-prioritize marijuana arrests.

“Quite frankly, it is not appropriate for a law enforcement agency or individual law enforcement personnel to make decisions about which laws will be enforced and when,” the city wrote in its response to PACT’s requests. “It should be noted that charges in the vast majority of cases involving simple possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor, are most often handled via the issuance of a citation rather than a physical arrest.”

Byrd's statement said the city “left the door open to exploring models for police oversight boards that would require legislative actions from the North Carolina General Assembly,” and agreed in the meantime to review other departments’ best practices for filing complaints through departments' Internal Affairs Units.

Additionally, the city has allocated $1.5 million for an officer-worn body camera program in the budget for the next fiscal year. It says it already has an internship program in place with Shaw, St. Augustine’s and N.C. Central Universities and already rotates officers’ patrol schedules.

Both activists and city manager Hall agreed to keep dialogue open between Raleigh officers and the city and the communities they police. Still, activists say the independent oversight board is what is most sorely needed in Raleigh. 

“The simple fact is the city’s existing system for documenting civilian complaints aren’t enough,” said PACT member Terrence Perry. “Without this oversight tool we are not addressing the problem in its entirety; the police are still policing themselves.”

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