Activists call for police accountability and racial equity training

Mehrdad Mojarrad stood outside the Wake County Courthouse wearing a T-shirt with a picture of his son on it.

His 30-year-old son, Soheil Mojarrad, was fatally shot by a Raleigh police officer earlier this year. Police say he continued to approach the officer with a knife, refusing commands to drop his weapon, The News & Observer has reported. His family said he was mentally ill.

Monday, Mehrdad Mojarrad joined activists at a press conference to call for more police accountability, particularly in situations with people of color.

While he didn’t speak to the crowd of about 20 people, he told The News & Observer in an interview: “Any public official who is getting paid by my taxes has to be held accountable.”

Faisal Khan, founder of the Carolina Peace Center, called for crisis training and racial equity training for the police. He added, “We need to find and elect people who show solidarity with people of color.”

As of July, 420 Raleigh police officers have received crisis intervention training, according to the city. By 2020, all officers assigned to field operations will have received the training, according to the city of Raleigh.

The timing of the rally coincided with the court date for Mikisa Thompson, who was cited in May by Garner police for a noise violation, a violation of the town ordinances. The court date was continued until October.

She spoke about her experience at the press conference. In May, at least eight Garner police officers served a search warrant at her house while responding to a neighbor’s noise complaint, WRAL reports. The recordings were of Malcolm X speeches, multiple media outlets reported.

Police took away electronics, media outlets said, and Thompson considered the police officers’ response to be “racist acts against her and her family,” ABC11, The News & Observer’s media partner reported in May.

“When you are in your home, you should feel at peace,” she said at the press conference.

Garner police press spokesman Joe Binns told ABC11 in May that the content of her recording was not relevant, but the volume was.

Other activists who spoke included Raleigh mayoral candidate Zainab Baloch, and Mikisa Thompson’s daughter, Takiyah Thompson, who was charged with helping bring down a Confederate statue in Durham. (The charges were later dismissed.)

The city of Raleigh does not yet have a police oversight and review board but Raleigh City Council is discussing what model will best suit the city.

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Ashad Hajela reports on public safety for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He studied journalism at New York University.