Durham News

Durham city manager responds to police racism claims

City Manager Tom Bonfield released his long-awaited response to alleged racism in the Durham Police Department on Monday in a 131-page document posted on the city website.

The response ( bit.ly/1v9LC6H) addresses each of the 34 recommendations the city’s Human Relations Commission submitted in May, after a six-month investigation concluded “racial bias and profiling (are) present in the Durham Police Department practices.”

Bonfield also responded to 10 recommendations from the city’s Civilian Police Review Board.

Among the commission recommendations were requiring written consent forms for traffic-stop searches, which Bonfield has endorsed.

“The Durham Police Department will begin requiring Written Consent to Search forms for all consent searches of premises and investigative encounters,” his report says. “Consent searches associated with vehicle stops will require documentation by audio or video recording, or written or verbal consent.”

The commission also recommended independent, quarterly analysis of traffic-stop data and regular psychiatric evaluations of police personnel.

Bonfield responded that the Police Department is now to provide an analysis to the city manager semi-annually, but leaves its preparation within the department. As for the psychiatric evaluations, he responded that the city administration “finds no basis to support the recommendation.”

Concluding his executive summary, Bonfield wrote:

“It is the City’s desire that this review and the (city) Administration’s recommendations signal the repairing and re-building of a trusting relationship between the Police Department and all segments of the Durham community.”

Bonfield will formally present his response at the City Council’s Thursday work session. Before the response was posted Monday, Councilman Steve Schewel said he was pleased that Bonfield “has spread a wide net” in preparing his response to the commission proposals.

Besides meeting with community groups, Schewel said, “he has also reached out to city managers and police chiefs around the state, and outside the state to try to find ways in which other police departments and cities are dealing with some of the issues raised in the Human Relations Commission report.”

Bell said he would be willing to hear public comment after Bonfield’s presentation Thursday, but doesn’t expect the council to take immediate action.

The commission’s report and Bonfield’s response come at a time when multiple events over more than a year have called Durham police actions into question: