A measured approach on complaints about police
The Human Relations Commission should be applauded for the measured approach it is taking in looking into complaints about the Durham Police Department.
Members of the commission want to fully understand how the department operates before probing further into the complaints that center on officer-involved shootings this year and whether the department engages in racial profiling.
The commission members are asking smart questions to be able to fully answer the concerns that have been raised by people in the community. Examining the Police Department’s training and policies is an excellent starting point. Statistics on searches and internal demographics should also help shed light on whether there are issues, and if so, specific areas. We also should note that the commission is drawing broadly on numbers, seeking information not just on searches, but on officer-conduct complaints and disciplinary actions, as well. Those combined statistics should draw a pretty clear picture of the Police Department and how officers interact with residents in a variety of neighborhoods.
The Civilian Police Review Board also is going to get a look from the Human Relations Commission and what its role can and should be, including what legal limits it has and how similar boards operate in other jurisdictions.
In addition to the expansive examination the commission is conducting, the community should appreciate that the members are not going to be rushed reaching its recommendations. Because the complaints raise serious concerns, there needs to be a methodic, thorough investigation. Based on the plan the commission members have formulated, that is exactly what we are going to get.
And the commission is sensitive to the notion that some might view that approach as foot-dragging. To dispel any appearance of that, the commission will soon issue a progress report to keep residents updated. Commission member Gerri Robinson summed it up nicely when she said: “We are here to do a job, and we are going to keep you in the loop.”
While we are anxious to see what the commission recommends to our elected officials – and ultimately to resolve any problems within the Police Department that exist or to put the matter to rest if none are found -- we know the investigation will (and should) take time and appreciate the gravity with which the Human Relations Commission is approaching this task.