Durham rally protests ‘driving while black’

jalexander@newsobserver.comSeptember 14, 2013 

— Some call it DWB – “driving while black” – black drivers pulled over because of their skin color.

Some call it racial profiling. Statistics show a disparity.

According to the N.C. Department of Justice, blacks made up 59 percent of the drivers stopped in Durham during the past five years, while making up 41 percent of the city’s population in the 2010 census. Whites accounted for 39 percent of the stops and 42 percent of the population.

Raleigh showed a similar trend. Blacks accounted for 47 percent of the traffic stops from 2008-2013, while making up 29 percent of the city’s population. Whites accounted for 50 percent of the stops and 57.5 percent of the population.

On Monday, a group called the Fostering Alternative Drug Enforcement Coalition will hold a rally in Durham demanding police accountability and community oversight. Supporters will march from the Durham Police Department Headquarters to City Hall.

“There are differences in the way that the poor and minority communities are policed,” said Nia Wilson, one of the organizers.

Some minorities think they are being harassed, she said, and believe serious crimes against minorities take longer to investigate and solve than similar crimes against whites or in wealthier neighborhoods.

“We are wanting to address those issues with the City Council and hoping they will engage in this process,” Wilson said.

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez referred questions to department spokeswoman Kammie Michael.

“The Durham Police Department delivers police services in the same manner to all our citizens with no consideration of race, ethnicity gender, etc.,” Michael said in an email. “Based upon identified needs from citizen complaints and crime data, we often deploy additional resources in a targeted manner to address crime and quality of life issues as they present themselves.”

“Additionally, our department has a clear policy prohibiting bias-based policing, i.e. racial profiling,” she added.

Among those marching Monday will be supporters of Carlos Antonio Riley Jr., a 22-year-old black man accused of shooting and wounding a Durham police officer during a December 2012 traffic stop.

According to court documents, Detective Kelly Stewart conducted a traffic stop on a red Nissan 300ZX. When Stewart approached the car, he asked and received Riley’s license and registration.

With the driver’s door open, the engine revved and the car began to travel forward. Stewart held onto the car for about 200 feet and reached into it to engage the hand break. A fight ensued inside the vehicle, and the detective drew his police-issued Smith and Wesson .45-caliber handgun and ordered Riley back. The two men struggled for the weapon, and the detective was shot in the leg, according to the documents.

Stewart, who is black, says Riley shot him in the leg. Riley says the officer shot himself.

The Police Department would not comment on the shooting, which remains under investigation.

Riley, a convicted drug dealer, was charged after the traffic stop with being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a stolen firearm. In July, he pleaded guilty to the first count and faces up to 10 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $250,000.

Riley’s attorney for the federal firearm charges, Michael Archenbronn, said Riley admits he had the gun at some point. He also said Riley was inebriated at the time but didn’t say whether that was the reason he was pulled over.

According to court documents, Riley says he threw the gun in the nearby woods as far as possible. The gun, however, was never recovered.

Monday’s rally continues a series of protests during the past year. On Aug. 3, Riley’s supporters held a rally in Long Meadow Park in Durham.

Alexander: 919-932-2008

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service