As community organizer and former Raleigh City Council candidate Shelia Alamin-Khashoggi rose last Tuesday to present her proposal for a police advisory board, a half-dozen hecklers stood in the back of the city council chambers, holding signs that read, “Not the people’s proposal” and “We say no to victim blaming.”
Although the group, Raleigh PACT, has demanded a police oversight board for years, its members say Alamin-Khashoggi’s version would only further protect Raleigh cops. Policing wasn’t a key element of Alamin-Khashoggi’s campaigns in 2011 and 2017, they argue, and she’s only championing it now to gain credibility ahead of an expected run next year.
And if she’s pandering, they say, she’s not doing a very good job of it.
“An advisory board without the authority to independently investigate, subpoena witnesses, and personnel files and enforce discipline is only lip service to improving police communications and relations without the authority or resources to do the work,” says Rolanda Byrd, whose son Akiel Denkins was shot and killed by Raleigh police in 2016. “We will not be pawns in a political move without substance. An advisory board is not accountability.”
Alamin-Khashoggi insists politics has nothing to do with her plan. She says several community members asked her to draft the proposal, including council member David Cox. “It’s not about me,” Alamin-Khashoggi says. “It’s about the community.”
But Cox says that’s not accurate. Though Alamin-Khashoggi discussed her proposal with him, he says, he didn’t ask her to put it together. City spokesman John Boyette Jr. adds in an email: “As far as I know, the council did not ask her to draft that proposal. She did it on her own and presented it per her right as a citizen.”
Alamin-Khashoggi’s board would focus on community-police relations, with an emphasis on training, mediation, gang prevention, and educating residents on how to conduct themselves during police interactions, including suggestions such as “citizens should be cautioned against bringing attention to themselves by playing loud music.” The board would comprise a mix of public officials, community members, mental health experts, and law enforcement personnel appointed by the city council, the Human Relations Commission, and nonprofits such as the ACLU.
“When things go wrong, the human response is often to blame someone or some entity,” the proposal says. “The Citizens Advisory Board is not designed to point the finger at any particular individual or group. Rather, the Board’s objective would be system-focused.”
In the event of a complaint, the board would seek to “mediate or reconcile” the situation and make recommendations to improve police training. While the proposal makes no mention of subpoena power or access to police internal affairs reports—currently inaccessible under state law—it would allow the board to request an officer’s training-compliance record.
Alamin-Khashoggi says additional records requests could be incorporated in the board’s responsibilities, and her plan is just “a beginning.”
Dawn Blagrove, executive director of the Carolina Justice Policy Center, thinks Alamin-Khashoggi’s proposal would create “an accountability board that is accountable to no one.”
“The proposal we saw presented today,” she said after last week’s council meeting, “is designed to further protect law enforcement from accountability, to further protect them from external review.”
PACT wants a more aggressive advisory board with investigative power, disciplinary oversight, access to personnel files, and the ability to subpoena witnesses. No such board exists in North Carolina—and in all likelihood, none could without a revision to state law. Even so, Blagrove believes Raleigh should set an example for other municipalities to follow.
Alamin-Khashoggi says she wasn’t surprised at PACT’s reaction to her plan “because I knew they hadn’t read it. If they read it at all, they would have had some type of recognition that there is something trying to go forth in place.”
While council member Corey Branch supports the idea of the board, he says he doesn’t support Alamin-Khashoggi’s plan. He urges other community members to bring forward their own ideas.
“I can’t say I support it as written,” Branch says. “Whatever is finally decided, the community as a whole will have to provide their input because that is the only way we’ll have any type of board that could be effective.”
Cox asked the council to review the concept of a police advisory board during its February retreat.
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