City Council members received the Police Department’s “Bias Based Policing Traffic Report” with little comment and a few questions at their work session Thursday.
“I’m delighted with the transparency,” Councilman Don Moffitt said. “I’m really glad to see this and look forward to continued reports.”
Police Chief Jose L. Lopez attended the work session but made no formal presentation on the bias report or several other reports he had submitted with it in late October.
Semi-annual bias reports are one of the new measures the city has begun in response to alleged racial bias and profiling by Durham police. The Police Department does not dispute the numbers but says it does not engage in racial profiling.
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According to the bias report
• Police officers stopped 12,172 motorists in the first six months of 2014 – 58.5 percent of the drivers were black, 38.5 percent white.
• Six percent of the black drivers and passengers stopped were searched, 1 percent of the white drivers and passengers.
• Thirty-one percent of the stops were in an area police call the “density zone,” which covers much of east-central Durham; its population is 63.5 percent black, 19 percent white.
“In the context of other variables noted in this report, there does not appear to be an indication of bias-based profiling in our citizen/motorist encounters,” the report states. Mayor Bill Bell said the report would serve as “a sort of a benchmark” to measure the effect of policy and procedural changes put in place to prevent bias in Durham police work.
One of those is the requirement that officers get signed permission for vehicle searches during traffic stops. Deputy Police Chief Larry Smith, who attended the work session with Lopez and Deputy Chief Anthony Marsh, said he expects the requirement may lead to fewer searches but not much change in the relative numbers of whites and minorities stopped.
“Disparity in numbers does not equal bias,” Smith said.
Bell asked what the public could expect from newly instituted training for officers to recognize their own biases, even those they may be unconscious of.
“I would expect to see, hopefully, less complaints of rudeness and that sort,” March said. “We want fair, impartial delivery of police services to all citizens.”
Earlier in the work session, Durham resident Chris Tiffany spoke about police “face planting” and other rough treatment of civilians that goes unreported,
After Bell asked about Tiffany’s complaint, Marsh said police plan to start field-testing two types of body cameras in January. Those would be used to record all interactions between officers and citizens.
Currently, all interactions with civilians are supposed to be reported verbally to police communications operators, Smith said.
“If (an officer) had an encounter with a citizen and didn’t call, that would be a concern,” he said.