Mark Anthony Middleton addresses the cameras outside Durham City Hall.
Yesterday, the Durham Police Department released the results of an independent study
it commissioned to analyze the department's traffic stop data. Not surprising: Between January 2010 and October 2015, Durham police disproportionately pulled over black male drivers. The greatest disproportionality was found in the department's Hight Enforcement Abatement (HEAT) unit, which focuses on drugs, vice, and gang violence.
In a news release, the DPD said that the report, conducted by RTI International, "does not establish overall organizational bias within DPD." It also noted that the disproportionality declined over the six-year perid.
“We believe the improvements in the disproportionality are a result of the changes in our policies, procedures and training that we’ve instituted in the past few years," Larry Smith, DPD interim police chief, said. "This shows that we are willing to listen to our community and make adjustments in our policing practices when necessary."
This morning, out front of Durham City Hall, representatives from several community organizations—Fostering Alternatives to Drug Enforcement (FADE); the Southern Coalition for Social Justice; the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People; Durham Congregations in Action—gathered to say, essentially, "Well, yeah
," and to call for more to be done to address racial profiling issues in Durham.
Attorney Scott Holmes, wearing a sort of Crocodile Dundee
hat, cargo shorts, a knee brace, and chunky old New Balance sneakers, gave a satisfying five-minute rant in front of the TV cameras.
"People have been suffering on the streets, bleeding, dying in Durham for years, and every step of the way the police have said there's no problem, everything's fine," Holmes said. "Go back and look at the media reports. And now suddenly after all these years, they've found a tiny crack in the traffic statistics. Forgive me if I'm not excited."
"They did not discover America with this report," Holmes added. (The INDY featured Holmes
, and his findings that ninety percent of Durham residents charged with resisting arrest are black, in this week's issue.)
Mark Anthony Middleton, pastor at Abundant Hope Christian Church, said, "Turns out we can do math. Turns out we have not been hallucinating. Turns out Durham does have issues. I'm glad that this report confirmed what we already knew." He credited the efforts of the FADE coalition in raising awareness of the problems.
"This is an opportunity to have a fundamental philosophical discussion about what policing will look like for the next thirty to fifty years in Durham," Middleton said. "This is not the time for a victory lap. This is a time to get serious about the issue. And the conversation can't just be at the police department. It has to be at the council and mayoral level. And with the inclusion of the citizens of Durham."
Speaking with the INDY
after the presser, Clarence Birkhead of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People said, "It's frustrating that it's taken yet another report, and additional money, to confirm something everybody here has known for years. But at least it is some recognition and acknowledgement. I'm hopeful it can be a jumping-off point for more improvement."
You can pore over the report in its entirety here