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Durham CAN on Police Policy

Durham CAN on Police Policy

Friday, November 21, 2014
The New York Times

…After having initially rejected protesters’ demands, the city abruptly changed course and agreed to require the police, beginning last month, to obtain written consent to search vehicles in cases where they do not have probable cause. The consent forms, in English and Spanish, tell drivers they do not have to allow the searches.

Durham, home to Duke University, has a rich history of civil rights and social movements, a legacy reflected in the well-organized coalition that pushed for changes. Activists agreed not to call for the resignations of any police or city officials, who could be replaced with more politically savvy executives who might still resist changes. They pressed instead for systemic changes no matter who was in charge. Written consent to search, they said, would reduce disparities and end coercive tactics that the police used to search even in the absence of true, willing consent.

In city hearings and at news conferences, the activists paired abuse allegations with the search data.

“We started with the anecdotes, and then added the scholarship,” said the Rev. Mark-Anthony Middleton, pastor of Abundant Hope Christian Church and one of the leaders of a prominent community group, the Durham Congregations, Associations & Neighborhoods. “We didn’t allow the conversation to devolve into one person’s job.”

Pastor Middleton said community groups remained prepared to work with the chief of police, Jose L. Lopez Sr. “But he has to understand who runs the city,” he added. “He sure does now.”