DURHAM: City manager to issue report on police dept. in August - WFLA News Channel 8

Durham city manager to issue report on police department in August

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DURHAM, N.C. -

Durham's city manager says he plans to review 44 recommended policy changes for the police department and present his report on those recommendations to City Council in August.

During its May 22 work session, Durham City Council reviewed 34 recommendations from the city's Human Relations Commission regarding allegations of racial profiling within the police force. Preceding the HRC's report, the city's Civilian Police Review Board additionally presented 10 recommendations on improving the role of the CPRB in the relationship between police and the community.

The HRC report outlines ways the police department can better communicate with the public, improve oversight of officers and train officers to deal with racial issues. It came after months of public hearings and analysis of publicly-available traffic stop data by several outside groups, which showed black people in Durham are much more likely to be stopped and searched in traffic than whites.

After the May 22 presentation, Mayor Bill Bell asked City Manager Thomas Bonfield for recommendations on how to fix the problem by the June 16 council meeting. Bonfield, however, said because of issues associated with the FY 2015 budget, he was unable to meet the June 16 deadline but hopes to review the recommendations and present a report at the City Council's Aug. 21 work session.

"Due to the complexity of several of the recommendations, additional research needed, coordination of meeting, and summer vacation schedules, I believe it is reasonable to think this work can be completed in approximately 60 days," Bonfield said in a letter Monday to Bell and City Council.

In reviewing the recommendations, Bonfield said he will implement any actions that he deems appropriate and are within his authority. He also said that any recommendations that he deems appropriate but are outside his authority of implementation will be referred to City Council for consideration.

"It is reasonable to expect that some recommendation both within and beyond my authority will not receive my concurrence," Bonfield said. "In all cases, these too will be presented to the City Council ... for consideration."

Bonfield said he will lead the review and evaluation of the recommendations along with members of the city manager's office. He added that the review process will look at law enforcement best practices and North Carolina peer city practices.

He said he also plans to consider feedback from the Durham Police Department.

If work on the review is completed prior to the Aug. 21 work session, Bonfield said he will present his response to the recommendations during the City Council's Aug. 7 work session.

The recommendations come as the police department has been heavily scrutinized over a number of incidents involving officers.

In July, and an officer shot and killed a Spanish speaking man who was holding a knife and refused to put it down. Witnesses say Jose Ocampo was trying to give the weapon to officers handle first when the officer shot him.

In September, Durham officers also shot Derek Walker, who was waving a gun in the air and threatening to kill himself in CCB Plaza.

In November, the department was criticized for its handling of the death of 17-year-old Jesus Huerta, who investigators said shot himself while handcuffed in the backseat of a police cruiser.

And last month, the police department released video from a police cruiser showing an altercation between an officer and a bicyclist, John Hill, who the officer said ran a red light. During the altercation, the video shows the officer using an arm bar technique to force Hill to the ground.

A judge dismissed charges against Hill, ruling that the officer used more force than was necessary. Hill has since accused the department of profiling.

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