I am concerned Durham’s newly elected City Council may become too involved in the day-to-day management of our city’s police department following the retirement of Chief Jose Lopez. Police accountability appeared to be a concern of the candidates due in no small measure to well-publicized cases and poor relations between our police and both African-American and Hispanic communities.
Almost nightly we are treated to crime stories showing arrested African Americans while watching local television newscasts, and it goes without saying there is genuine concern over their treatment by law enforcement agencies in the wake of incidents in Ferguson Missouri, Baltimore and most recently in a Columbia, South Carolina, classroom. At the same time, actions of civil disobedience by community groups such as blocking access to the Durham Freeway show disrespect for public order our officers are sworn to uphold.
I support the efforts of our law enforcement officers and do not wish to see their efforts “handcuffed” by our council. I share the council’s concerns that a continuous conversation must be held between law enforcement and African American and Hispanic community leaders leading to better relations and treatment of persons in police custody. But I do not support possible efforts by the council that may hamper law enforcement.
At this time I also wish to commend outgoing councilman Eugene Brown for his “parting shot” concerning the municipal primary election. My recently published letter in the Durham News (and a second published in 2013) noted the primary is a waste of city tax dollars that could easy be spent for needed programs or public improvements. It was noted in a recent News & Observer story Councilman Brown said the primary cost city taxpayers $200,000. I have read that only 7.65 percent of eligible voters (slightly more than 176,000 registered voters in Durham County are also city residents) voted in the primary . I sincerely hope the new council will heed Brown’s parting shot and vote to change the city’s charter to have plurality mayoral and council elections.
Mark G. Rodin