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The Daily Tar Heel

Carrboro police work to reduce racial bias

In the midst of many instances of racial bias by police officers, the Carrboro Police Department is changing its policies and implementing new technology in an effort to make Carrboro safer for all residents.

In May 2015, the Carrboro Police Department received a letter from the Orange County Bias Free Policing Coalition that contained several recommendations for how to eliminate racial bias by police departments.

“The town is taking small steps recommended by groups concerned about racial equity,” Board of Aldermen member Damon Seils said. “The town is trying to implement these recommendations over time.”

The Carrboro Police Department has already applied many recommendations, such as lowering the priority for enforcing marijuana laws and requiring officers to acquire written consent before a vehicle search.

Carrboro police Chief Walter Horton presented an update on policing to the board in November.

“I think the board needs to consider what other resources (the police department) needs to continue to be a leader in having an equitable police department related to race,” Board of Aldermen member Michelle Johnson said at the November meeting.

Horton has also been facilitating an examination of Carrboro’s policing policy.

“We are looking at overhauling our old policy manual,” Horton said.

The police department is shifting its focus to enforcing moving violations.

“Rather than stopping people solely because of expired registration, lights out or other minor regulatory violations, we are mainly concentrated on speeding, DWIs, running red lights and things that are truly safety hazards to people on the roadways,” Horton said.

The purchase of body-worn cameras has already been approved for this fiscal year. The board and the police department are developing a policy for the cameras, which will be finished soon, Seils said.

“(Creating) the body camera policy is important because there are certain things that need to be addressed such as officer privacy, when to turn them off and when to turn them on,” Horton said.

With around 40 officers, the Carrboro Police Department is relatively small, and the cameras will be purchased for around $90,000 with funds from the town’s policing budget, Horton said.

The Board of Aldermen and the police department have also held a few larger-scale community forums. 

“We want to make sure our department is staying on top of these issues and being as prepared as we can to make sure our policies are reflecting the values of our community,” Seils said.

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