Umar Muhammad characterized it as a slap in the face—the Durham City Council’s consideration of purchasing eighty cars to add to the police department’s fleet. So when the board opened the floor for discussion of the matter during their meeting this evening, he spoke his mind.
Frank "Scooter Bug" Clark
Frank Clark, he said, is still dead—killed November 22 by DPD Master Officer Charles Barkley, a man Muhammad said “we told you” about. So in his view, any discussion about the police should center around the investigation into the thirty-four-year-old’s untimely death and not about putting more cop cars into neighborhoods like McDougald Terrace.
“The police officers can do whatever they want to do and you’re gonna reward them with police cars?” asked Muhammad, a community organizer with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “The cars that were sitting in McDougald when Frank Clark was killed, there’s nothing wrong with those cars.”
But he wasn’t only angry that the city has, officially, remained silent on Clark’s death. In fact, it was comments made by councilman Eddie Davis published by the N&O that really drew his ire.
So he read Davis’ words back to him.
“Since there hasn’t been an outcry, it doesn’t appear to me that the public confidence has been compromised at all,” Muhammad read. “The family of Frank Clark is in the room today and I don’t know where you’ve been listening. We’ve been crying. This is a slap to the face. … We have been crying. We’ve been crying about Barkley. The community deserves an apology for your comments. We have always been silenced. But y’all are gonna do what y’all are gonna do and it shows.”
Shortly after Muhammad spoke, the council went into a several-hour closed session, during which the Clark shooting was discussed at length. Councilman Steve Schewel and Councilwoman Jillian Johnson told the INDY
that City Manager Tom Bonfield is currently weighing whether or not to release the personnel files of the officers involved in the Clark shooting, a measure Johnson said she would support.
Schewel said he trusted Bonfield to make the right decision, but added that "police officers are different than other employees because they do have a different kind of power and they do carry a gun."
The board also formally requested that Governor-elect Roy Cooper expedite the SBI investigation into the Clark shooting, and asked that when the investigation is turned over to Durham District Attorney Roger Echols, that the DA provide a detailed explanation once his office reaches a determination about whether to prosecute Barkley.
"We need to absolutely enforce accountability," Schewel says.