Activists Want a Police Oversight Board in Raleigh | Triangulator | Indy Week

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Activists Want a Police Oversight Board in Raleigh

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On Saturday, an attorney working with Akiel Denkins's family and the NAACP challenged the Raleigh Police Department's version of how the twenty-four-year-old man was fatally shot by Officer D.C. Twiddy on Leap Day ["Four Shots on Bragg Street," March 9].

"What we can say, based on initial review by our forensic pathologist, is that there was a shot from the back to the front shoulder area," attorney and N.C. Central law professor Scott Holmes said at a press conference.

On March 3, Raleigh police released a report stating that Denkins had struggled with Twiddy, who was trying to arrest Denkins on a felony drug charge. According to the police, Denkins reached for a gun before Twiddy fired.

The report noted four bullet wounds in Denkins's chest, which—though no points of entry were mentioned—seemed to suggest the bullets struck him from the front.

Not so fast, Holmes says. "There were other shots."

This claim aligns with at least one witness account. Truvalia Kearney had previously told The News & Observer that Twiddy shot Denkins in the back because the suspect had frustrated the officer by jumping a fence.

As the INDY reported last week, there was a prevailing sense in this Southeast Raleigh neighborhood that, no matter the facts, the police would clear their brother in blue. "It's going to be a justified shooting," one resident said. "The cops are going to fix it up some type of way."

One way to forge trust, activists say, would be to create a civilian board that reviews claims of police misconduct. At last Thursday's Human Relations Commission meeting, the Police Accountability Community Taskforce began an effort to persuade the city to do just that. PACT wants a board that "has the power to investigate, subpoena, and discipline police when there is injustice," according to the recommendations PACT plans to submit to the city council.

While civilian oversight boards already exist in some North Carolina municipalities, including Durham, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Charlotte, the general consensus is that these groups are largely toothless. PACT wants to model Raleigh's board after one recently implemented in Newark, New Jersey, says Mike Meno, communications director for the North Carolina ACLU.

Newark's board has the authority to subpoena data and testimony from the city's police department and audit the department's policies and practices. It also has the power to recommend disciplinary decisions to the police chief and compel the department to report racial and demographic data regarding police activities, including stop-and-searches.

But the city will need the legislature's permission to enact any review panel, no matter the scope of its authority. Last year, Representative Rodney Moore, D-Mecklenburg, introduced a bill to enable cities statewide to create such boards without first seeking the state's blessing, but it went nowhere.

In addition, PACT is asking city officials for several things: to strengthen the police department's anti-bias policy and regularly review stop-and-search data; to require written consent-to-search forms; to deprioritize marijuana enforcement; to implement body cameras (which the city council was set to discuss the day Denkins was shot); and to create an internship program to recruit officers of color.

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