Outside the Big Lots, a man in a gold jacket stood near the trash cans, the 911 caller said. A black handgun fell to the ground from under his shirt. He picked it up and stuck it in his jacket, then looked around and entered the store.
“He was an African American, older man with a gold jacket—it looks like he’s getting ready to go on Saturday Night Live—and a toboggan on,” the caller said. “He was acting shady.”
Less than an hour later, he’d be dead, shot by a Raleigh police officer responding to the 911 call.
Keith Dutree Collins, 52, lived in a nearby apartment complex and was likely walking home on Pleasant Valley Road when the officer approached him. Instead of following the officer’s orders, Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown says, Collins ran. While being chased, Collins produced a gun. The officer fired multiple rounds, striking Collins multiple times. He was taken to the hospital, where he died.
Collins’s death is the latest in a series of high-profile use-of-force incidents that have drawn calls for police accountability, including a viral video of two officers beating Braily Batista-Concepcion until his face was covered in blood.
For years, Raleigh activists have sought an oversight board with disciplinary and subpoena powers. Last year, the city’s Human Relations Commission agreed, but the city manager refused to allow the HRC to present its recommendations to the council. Deck-Brown opposes any board, believing it will interfere with her officers’ ability to do their jobs.
In a unanimous vote at its meeting on Tuesday, the Raleigh City Council struck a compromise that gave neither group what it wants: a largely toothless review board.
“We need to do something, and it’s a first step and a compromise,” Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin told the INDY Monday. “Sometimes, when you make nobody happy, maybe that is the best solution.”
City staffers presented a report based on community feedback from six forums late last year. Only 191 people attended the meetings, and 83 were police officers. The report concludes that “there is a strong desire from community member[s] that Council should do something to address the issues of transparency and accountability in the form of some type/model of review board.”
The board will consist of five members—a mental health professional, a civil rights attorney, a representative from the LGBTQ community, a victims’ advocate, and an appointee from the police department. The board would be charged with reviewing the police department’s policies and “building trust” with the community, Baldwin says.
Giving a review board subpoena or disciplinary power, Baldwin points out, would require asking the General Assembly for permission. She thinks that’s a losing battle.
Deck-Brown did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Diana Powell, the executive director of Justice Served NC, says the board won’t “solve all the problems, but at least we’re getting a start versus having nothing.”
City council member Nicole Stewart—who previously opposed a review board because she didn’t think it would be effective—agrees.
“Does putting something on the ground help us move forward, or are we giving everybody nothing that they want?” Stewart says. “I’m hopeful that by moving forward, we’re giving folks something and starting to build some trust and test some ideas to see what works and learning from what doesn’t.”
But the activist group Raleigh Police Accountability Community Task Force, which has lobbied for years for more police oversight, isn’t happy—not with the feckless board Baldwin is proposing, and not with the fact that it wasn’t given a heads-up before it was announced.
Far from building trust, PACT argues, the city is taking a step backward.
“This board does nothing,” PACT coalition coordinator Surena Johnson told the INDY Monday night. “It gives us no power to make any decisions. This is setting us back because it’s an illusion of progress.”
Contact Raleigh news editor Leigh Tauss at email@example.com.
Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.