Citizen Oversight of Policing in Carrboro, NC – Everyone Wins


So, I made my pitch for citizen design of policing in Carrboro, NC – my home town these past 10 years – on WCHL ‘s “The Commentators,” on Wednesday, December 17. I don’t expect much progress over the holidays. But it never hurts to stoke the fire a bit.

In the meantime, some movement is evident already. Three Carrboro Alderpeople (Damon Seils, Michelle Johnson and Randee Haven-O’Donnell) have already been in touch, saying they’d like to compare notes after the Christmas break.

None of this is to say progress is going to be made behind closed doors. That is precisely what I do not want. I want the dialogue about policing in Carrboro (a dialogue I hope will become a template for communities with more pressing policing problems than Carrboro), I want that dialogue to be open, transparent and driven by citizens.

I have already told the Carrboro Alderpeople who have been in touch that I will be quite openly publishing notes of all conversations and communications we have. But these conversations do offer an opportunity to share thoughts, and see if there is common ground, so that maybe efforts can be in tandem.

Side point. Worth making again. The goal is for citizens, elected officials, police, communities to design dialogue, structure and processes, consensually, which will allow communities to have a policing approach with which they are comfortable.

But there is another side to it. And it becomes most evident when I read a recent article about the police reaction in Durham to the protests there.

The lose-lose-lose-lose situation is when we have a community that feels it is not being protected, protesters who feel they cannot express themselves safely, elected officials wringing their hands uselessly and police feeling they are being left hanging out to dry, because no-one is giving them clear guidance.

The win-win-win-win situation is where all in a community – citizens, police, protesters, whoever – are given the opportunity to be involved in designing an agreed policing approach, everyone knows exactly what is and what is not acceptable, police have clear rules of engagement, and if and when they follow them, they are fully supported by all in the community.

That is the goal of my push for citizen oversight of police. It creates an environment where everyone is clear and supported. And those who wish to make trouble know exactly what will happen when they do – and it will happen with the support of the community in which they seek to make trouble. No-one is left hanging out to dry.

I will continue with the updates, and look forward to input from the rest of the community as the opportunities finally become available. I really can’t see any political objection anywhere to the notion of a community designing its own policing approach. Whether you are Tea Party or anarchist …


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