Durham County

Police vehicle purchase drives opposition from community members

Rachael Riley; rriley@heraldsun.com

Durham City Council’s approval of a $1.39 million state contract to replace 54 cars in the Police Department was met with opposition Monday night -- including by representatives of the family involved a Nov. 22 police shooting.

Umar Mohammed said he represents the community and tries to reach out to council members.

“Are we really going to show the community that the police officers are going to do what they want to do and we’re going to reward them with police cars?” Mohammed asked.

Mohammed used the November police-involved shooting that left 34-year-old Frank “Scooter Bug” Clark dead at McDougald Terrace as an example.

Representatives of Clark’s family stood at Monday night’s meeting.

One of the men declined to speak to the press, until he was able to consult with the family’s attorney.

Another spoke to The Herald-Sun but did not give his name.

“It’s like where do we go from here. We’ve been hurt … This ... ain’t right. We’ve got family. We can’t keep laying down,” the family member said.

Mohammed also called recent comments made by Councilman Eddie Davis relating to whether or not there has been a public outcry “a slap in the face.”

“The family of Frank Clark is in this room today, and I don’t know where you’re listening to...you can feel them crying. There has been an outcry,” Mohammed said.

Davis spoke to The Herald-Sun and clarified the question he was asked was whether there was a widespread concern related to the incident.

Davis said the concerns he’s heard are from people who are usually “anti-police.”

“I respect the family members. I respect the loss that they had and want to make sure that there is a difference between their voices and the voices of the people who tend to respond to everything that has to do with the police,” Davis said.

Mohammed said council members were going to “do whatever they wanted to do.”

The council was unanimous in its decision to replace the vehicles.

“Our fleet maintenance people track the wear and tear… it costs the city keeping vehicles in service beyond their life,” Councilman Don Moffitt said.

Durham resident Victoria Peterson also spoke against the purchase.

Peterson said almost a year ago she spoke to the council about crime and shootings near Ridgeway and the McDougald Terrace area.

Peterson said at that time, she asked the council to find money for job training for young men in the community to help them get out of crime.

“Now you have police officers for whatever reason winding up shooting one of our residents,” Peterson said. “If the black community doesn’t rise up and create some programs for our young people and is the pastors and the ministers of this community don’t start coming together and create programs, a lot of the African-Americans that have lived in this community are going to have to move.”

Peterson said she is tired of black men being killed.

“If it’s black on black on crime, or either if it’s police officers feeling that they have to shoot somebody because they don’t want to lose their lives, and I understand that -- but the black community needs to do something. I’ve had enough” she said.