The takeway from the last two months of public meetings about Durham Police Department and the Civilian Police Review Board, is that there is significant community mistrust of the board, which is viewed, particularly in neighborhoods of color, as apologists for the police department.
The board is considering amending its policies to address public concerns; it will vote on any changes at a public meeting Wednesday, March 26, at 5:30 p.m. in the second-floor committee room at Durham City Hall.
The board will then forward its proposed amendments to City Council, which must approve any changes.
The board’s standard of review is limitedit can examine only how the investigation was conducted, not the actions of the police officers. Even the complainants can’t comment on the officer’s actions. For example, Durham resident Michael Lynch, asked DPD to investigate an incident of vandalism to his car only , he said, to have an officer tell him it wasn’t worth the manpower.
Many Durham citizens have noted they didn’t even know complaint forms exist. (The INDY printed them in the March 5 edition and they are online at indyweek.com.)
In addition, the board has no subpoena power, and when it does deliberate, those proceedings are closed to the public.
“The community needs more access to the information,” says Dante Strobino of the social justice group NC FIST.
At the Feb. 26 public hearing, Strobino and several other community members suggested that Durham form community task forces composed of the City Council representative from the district, civil rights attorneys and activists, plus family members who have interacted with police. The task force would file reports to City Council. “It allows people to engage in the process, to take on some of the power,” Strobino said.
These panels would serve a different purpose from Partners in Crime groups (PAC), which monitor criminal activity in their communities and work with police to curb it. “The PACs are more people on people oversight, not oversight of the cops. PACs are not going to scrutinize the police.”
Even cities with stronger civilian police review boards, such as New York, “still have problems,” Strobino said. “We haven’t really seen it work anywhere unless the community is organized to keep the city, the police and the review board in check.”
PRESS TO HIGH POINT
The Herald-Sun, which in the 1990s, exiled itself from downtown Durham to a distant parcel near Pickett Road and U.S. 15-501, is looking to move its editorial and sales staffs back downtown.
But what won’t be coming are the printing press and the people who run it.
Paxton Media, the Kentucky-based company that owns the H-S, is relocating the printing operations to High Point
That should indicate Paxton’s priorities: securing a new building for a new pressshipped from Indiawhile the H-S’ current digs, which it built in the 1990s, are deteriorating: The roof is leaking and some water fountains and bathroom stalls are broken. This is not a good way to sell a building, which has been on the market for almost a year.
The INDY could not confirm at press time if the H-S will lay off press workers, and if so, if they will be offered severance.
In addition to the H-S, and the High Point Enterprise, Paxton owns the Sanford Herald and four more daily papers in North Carolina. Its holdings, however, include about 30 daily and weekly papers in the South and Midwest.