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Sign on to our letter to the City Council

We believe that everyone deserves to experience safety, care, and belonging. We’re fighting for a Durham where every community has access to resources that help them feel safe, supported, and cared for—everyday, and especially in times of crisis.

Currently, armed police officers respond to 911 calls in every situation. But so many of us carry the trauma of our communities being harmed by the police when we ask for help. Not everyone is safe in the presence of police. Calling 911 is not an option for all of us. Too often, we have to manage crises and respond to harm on our own.

This June, the City of Durham has an opportunity to transfer 10% of the Durham Police Department (DPD) personnel budget into a new Department of Community Safety. Right now, there are roughly 60 vacancies in DPD—over 10% of total police staff. We are calling on the City Council to transfer those vacant positions to a new Department of Community Safety and hire unarmed professionals to respond to some of our 911 calls: social workers, mental health professionals, people who are trained in de-escalating conflict, people who will provide care when we most need it. Read the full text of our letter below.

Sign on to Durham For All’s letter demanding Durham City Council relocate the currently vacant 10% of DPD police officer positions to the Department of Community Safety and invest in unarmed roles for responding to 911 calls:

Read the full text of our letter to Durham City Council members here:

Dear Durham City Council Members:

On behalf of Durham For All (D4A) members and leaders, we are writing to share with you what we see as a unique opportunity for Durham to live up to our values of care, justice, and safety.

We write this letter with the knowledge that we have a common goal: We are all working towards a Durham where every resident —no matter our race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, immigration status, or religion— feels safe, supported, and cared for, especially in times of crisis. We also know that with the current 911 system, too many people don’t seek help when they need it most because armed officers, whose presence does not bring safety to many of us, often respond to 911 calls.

One of our members clearly described the complications of calling 911, especially for Black people, in the following experience of a car accident: “I didn’t feel protected or served. One thing that always sticks out to me is how I had to be scared about the police showing up on edge, ready to shoot, and being a threat to my life. I had to manage that potential crisis while also managing the physical, mental and emotional trauma of a car accident.” No one should have to experience this fear when they call for help.

For these times of crisis and stress, we need unarmed responders, mental health professionals, social workers, and conflict resolution professionals who are trained to provide care and support. As you make decisions on the coming budget, we urge you to invest in hiring professionals for a new Department of Community Safety, as unarmed responders to 911 calls involving mental health crises, quality of life issues, and traffic incidents.

We know the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the city budget and the Durham community as a whole, limiting funding for new hires. Currently, there are 60 vacant police officer positions in the Durham Police Department (DPD), which is 10% of DPD staffing positions.[1] We urge you to relocate those vacancies to a new Department of Community Safety and hire unarmed responders that can provide community members with the safety, wellness and care we need in times of crisis. This solution, without putting added strain on the city budget, responds to the demands of the powerful movement across our country, inspired and led by the Movement for Black Lives, to develop community-based alternatives to policing.

Last summer, in the midst of our nation’s largest uprisings since the Civil Rights Movement, Durham For All held thousands of conversations with voters of color and working class voters in Durham about the pressing needs of our communities. While people have different experiences with and perspectives on police and public safety, over and over, we heard a common theme: there’s something fundamentally broken about our criminal justice system. We invited community members to join Durham For All members and movement allies to discuss policy solutions through our People’s Platform. In what became our Justice for All platform, there was a resounding consensus on investing in alternatives to policing.

When we call 911, we’re not always reporting a crime or asking for armed officers. In fact, recent analysis performed by RTI International shows that 87 percent of 911 calls are resolved without an arrest.[2] Common calls for service, such as mental health (crisis, involuntary commitment), quality of life (trespassing, loitering, and noise complaints, etc.), traffic (motor vehicle accidents, traffic hazards) and general assistance calls do not require the presence of armed officers. In the case of mental health calls, officers are not equipped with the skills and training necessary to provide community members with the care they need, a fact DPD officers acknowledged in RTI focus groups. Unarmed, skilled, and professional responders can be dispatched for these calls and provide what community members need to feel supported, cared for, and safe.

Across the country, communities are recognizing this need and developing initiatives that provide care and support without criminalizing people in moments of crisis. From the longstanding CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets) program in Eugene, Oregon to new programs that have been popping up around the country since last year’s uprisings, municipalities are investing in models that reduce community members’ interactions with the police and the criminal justice system. The Los Angeles City Council has unanimously approved legislation to hire community-based responders to address nonviolent calls.[3] In Berkeley, California, the city council proposed a new Department of Transportation that will make non-police roles responsible for traffic enforcement.[4]

This year, Durham has a chance to join the growing list of cities that prioritize care and address the root causes of safety or crime, without eliminating jobs or cutting anyone’s salary. We cannot afford to miss this unique opportunity by continuing to pursue punitive methods that have harmed our communities and failed to respond to our needs for so long.
We know that you are in a difficult position when it comes to public safety and policing, with many pushes and pulls from your different constituents. We also believe that navigating these complexities is the work of liberation. We struggle together towards a deeper understanding of each other’s needs: what does a future look like in which we are all safe? We invite you to reimagine safety and care beyond the limited framework that defines it only as the absence of crime: Relocate the currently vacant 10% of DPD police officer positions to the Department of Community Safety and invest in unarmed roles for responding to 911 calls.

Here at Durham For All, we are committed to having difficult and honest conversations with Durham residents about safety and policing through weekly phone banks and online forums. In this work, we have learned that Durham residents are ready to think beyond our reliance on policing. And we expect you, our council members, to join us in this struggle: to take bold steps and explore alternatives to the systems that we know, based on research and experience, do not provide safety and care. We will reach out to schedule meetings with each of you to discuss this issue and the concerns you might have.

Thank you for everything you do for our city,

Shanise Hamilton, D4A Community Organizer
Jordan Thomas, D4A Member Leader
On behalf of Durham For All member leaders and staff

 

1. Durham Police Group Seeks Raises for All City Workers Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, WNCT, 10 Feb 2021

2. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1b07Z5gv0FcpAE_q_izgT2GVl-kerPJzi/edit#gid=2055845447 and https://durhamnc.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_02262021-1688

3. LA City Council approves plan to revamp LAPD with unarmed crisis response team, ABC, 15 Oct 2020

4. Berkeley proposal calls for eliminating police from traffic and parking enforcement, San Francisco Chronicle, 29 June 2020

 

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Past Events

People's Platform #1: Economy For All

Thursday, June 11, 2020
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Our first People's Platform event! Shaping our vision for an Economy For All with speakers from National Domestic Workers Alliance, Raise Up, and Down Home NC.

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People's Platform #2: Justice For All

Thursday, June 25, 2020
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Our second People's Platform event. Shaping our value of Justice For All with speakers from BYP 100, Durham Beyond Policing and Siembra NC.

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People's Platform #3: Education For All

Thursday, July 9, 2020
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Our third People's Platform event. We partnered with the Durham Association of Educators to talk about Education For All.

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People's Platform #4: Homes For All

Thursday, July 23, 2020
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Our fourth People's Platform event. Shaping our vision of Homes For All with speakers from Homes For All South, Legal Aid of North Carolina and the Housing Justice League.

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People's Platform #5: Healthcare For All

Thursday, August 6, 2020
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Our 5th People's Platform event. Shaping our vision of Healthcare For All with speakers from Durham DSA, the NC Justice Center and the White Coat Brigade.

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People's Platform #6: Democracy For All

Thursday, August 27, 2020
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Culmination of our People's Platform events. Our leaders and partners lay out our strategy to build a Democracy for all.

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Power to the Polls 2020

Every year we bring our power to the polls on the first Saturday of early voting in October. In 2020, we hosted a virtual power to the polls with speeches from movement leaders and electeds about out plan to win in November and beyond.

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2020 Election Night Watch Party

Durham For All staff, leaders, and partners shared their analysis of the political as results came in on Election Night.

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