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Small turnout for Durham police forum

Feb 16, 2021 6:16 am

Andrea Macko is reporting for Porcupine Soup as expected the Durham Police Reform Committee held a public forum February 11, as part of a state-required plan to assess its police department. The committee is made up of Town Supervisor and Police Commissioner Shawn Marriott, Matt Hausmann, Brenna Rustick, John Quirk, Greene County Legislator Patty Handel and Durham Police Officer-in-Charge Tom Sutton. The purpose of the forum was to find what types of experiences community members have had with the Durham Police Department, be they “good, bad or ugly.” Residents were offered the opportunity to have an open dialogue about the department, Marriott said, and to determine if some things can be done differently. The forum was held at Cairo-Durham High School with approximately four people in attendance plus several more listening in via conference call. Sutton said the Durham Police Department does make arrests and issue tickets, but it also checks on residents and properties, participates in ongoing training and community events. “We come down to the school every morning until the kids get in… and we are here when they get out,” said Sutton. Handel described the department as a “preventative” police agency. “There hasn’t been a formal complaint against the Durham Police Department in a long time,” said Marriott. “That’s a good thing.” However, one resident named Karen, participating via conference call, said racism is a problem in Durham. She cited a summer 2020 incident when a Black Lives Matter sign was vandalized near her home, as well as the regular presence of Confederate flags, which she pointed out are a racist symbol. “Our town is not without its problems,” she said, adding that she would like to see efforts made to make the town “more welcoming.” The committee will be exploring some changes to make it easier for the public to access information about the police department, particularly its use of force policy, and submit complaints or compliments through an official channel. Read the full story in Porcupine Soup.