Bonfield to report on police in August

Jun. 16, 2014 @ 09:57 PM

City Manager Tom Bonfield says his review of a package of suggested policy changes for the Durham Police Department will take about 60 days, meaning he figures to report back to the City Council on Aug. 21.

The process will begin this week, and Bonfield isn’t ruling out implementing some of the Human Relations Commission’s suggestions on his own authority.
“If during the course of this review it becomes apparent that a particular recommendation is appropriate and within my authority to direct its implementation, I will do so immediately,” he said in a memo to the City Council.
Reiterating comments from last month, Bonfield said he’ll lead the review personally, “along with several members of the city manager’s office.”
He promised to meet individually with the FADE Coalition and other groups that have alleged racial profiling on the part of the Police Department, not so much to “re-hear” the things they’ve already said to the Human Relations Commission as to get “their thoughts and priorities” on the panel’s recommendations.
The commission, holding that it saw evidence of racial profiling and bias in Police Department practices, offered a lengthy list of suggestions that included giving a civilian review board authority to investigate misconduct complaints.
It also advised requiring police to obtain written permission from motorists before searching vehicles in the absence of probable cause to think there’s been a crime. People can now offer permission verbally.
Bonfield said he’ll also talk with commanders in the Police Department and look to cities elsewhere in North Carolina and the U.S. for examples of the “best law enforcement practices.”
City Attorney Patrick Baker’s office will also “play a critical role,” as “many of the recommendations may potentially be impacted by statutory or case law, or by city charter or local ordinances.”
The manager said he’ll report back to the council with his actions or advice on all 44 of the recommendations that came from the Human Relations Commission and another panel, the Civilian Police Review Board. He held open the possibility of reporting earlier, on Aug. 7, if the review unfolds more quickly than he expects.
Proposals “that may sustain my concurrence but are outside of my authority will need to come back to the City Council for consideration,” he said.
“Also, it is reasonable to expect that some recommendations both within and beyond my authority will not receive my concurrence,” he continued. “In all cases these too will be presented to the City Council” for consideration.
Bonfield submitted the memo on Monday in accord with the directions he received from the council last month.
Some advocacy groups have already signaled impatience with the process, the People’s Alliance, for instance, on Friday emailing council members to urge them to order the use of written permission for consent searches immediately.
PA spokesman Charlie Reece on Monday clarified that the group’s request only applies to vehicle searches requested in the absence of probable cause, not those undertaken by warrant or when an officer has reason to think a crime’s been committed.
“Where an officer has no need to ask for consent, use of the form would clearly not be required,” Reece said via email.
Council members, meanwhile, made it clear they will allow the review process they and Bonfield agreed to in May to unfold.
“It is not the council's practice to take the recommendations of any of our advisory boards without our own independent consideration of those recommendations,” Councilman Steve Schewel told Reece, backing up an earlier message from Mayor Bill Bell. “We will take them up and look carefully at the merits of each one. That’s what we were elected to do.”