Second Carrboro, NC Policing Community Forum

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Carrboro, NC Alderman Damon Seils has very kindly notified me elsewhere that the second Carrboro policing community forum will be held on June 29. I want to urge as many Carrboro residents as possible to attend.

I have written the following e-mail to Carrboro Police Chief, Walter Horton, and to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, to follow up on the points I have been making since the first Carrboro policing community forum, not least about citizen design of policing:

“Dear Chief Horton and Carrboro Board of Aldermen,

Damon has very kindly notified me that the second Carrboro policing community forum will be held on June 29. On this occasion, with this much notice (many thanks!), I will be able to be in attendance.

I hope that steps will be taken widely to advertise this forum, especially among those who might feel that the subject of policing in Carrboro is of especial interest to them. For example, I know that the NC ACLU have been interested. As have the Chapel Hill NAACP, Orange County Justice United. And, as I suspect, will the residents of the various Carrboro apartment complexes, where residents have complained about police profiling. I would hope that contact could also be made with the various organizations working on behalf of the Hispanic communities in Carrboro. Finally, I would hope that, along with Chief Horton, there will be other representatives of the Carrboro Police present. My interest is unashamedly citizen design of policing. An essential element of the process is that it is consensual, so that all of the people involved – police, elected officials and concerned citizens – are comfortable with the manner in which policing policy is being designed.

Now, I am just one citizen. I’m no-one special. I expect no special favors. But, I am concerned. I have a voice. And I speak out. I have said it before. And I will repeat it now. My interest in exploring a new process for designing policing policy and approach in Carrboro is not necessarily because Carrboro is a hotbed of confrontation between police and citizen. It isn’t. But, as citizens, we have an obligation not just to our own hometown, but also to our nation. And too many of the cities of our nation are burning because the relationship between police and citizen has broken down. I believe we have a responsibility to attempt to build a better model of policing policy design here in Carrboro, so that it may serve as a template for avoiding further violence in those other communities.

In this regard, I believe a good place to start would be to make the agenda for the upcoming policing community forum a consensual one. Not just show ‘n tell for the police and the Board. By all means, let’s have items at the beginning, where police and the Board can report on what they have been doing. But let’s make those items brief, maybe?

I would like to hear what other bodies have been doing, not least the NAACP, with their internal discussions on a civilian review board. Then, I would like specifically to move onto citizen design of policing. I think it only fair to give you notice that I will be pushing for the following at this upcoming meeting:

1) A simple, bald declaration from the Board of Aldermen and Chief Horton that it is the Board which is primarily responsible for making policing policy in Carrboro.

2) An equally bald declaration that, henceforth, the Board will be reviewing and designing such policy jointly and consensually with police and interested citizens.

3) That there will be a singular, coherent process for such review and design – be it a series of formal forums, regular meetings of a new Board Sub-Committee, or Board Advisory Commission, whatever – some single point of reference, to which everything reports back, and which is a transparent beacon to those with grievance.

4) As a first step, posting all existing policing policies online.

5) Then, instituting a process, under the aegis of the single point of reference, for reviewing, improving, designing and monitoring compliance with policing policy, such that it is a joint exercise between police, elected officials and concerned citizens.

I look forward to a response, addressing the above points substantively. And I look forward to the community forum. Where I will be pushing for all that I state above. If the gathered meeting makes it clear that they prefer that I do not, then that will be for them.

The events in Baltimore this week make clear that there is no longer any more time to waste in all of us taking responsibility for the breakdown of trust between police and citizen in our country, and all of us doing what we can with expedition. However much of a cultural shock it may be to some of us.

I will be posting this e-mail widely.

Many thanks,
Geoff Gilson”

See you all on June 29. Spread the word …

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