One community member shared that she had heard shouting from her neighbor's apartment and felt concerned, but was too afraid to call the police because she knew one of the individuals in the encounter was a Black man.
Other members within the group said they felt this distrust could not be rectified from police reform, but rather required a reimagining of justice within Chapel Hill. Deborah Stroman, resident and UNC professor, said CPAC is the eyes and ears for Chapel Hill, but she was unsure whether or not the committee should be the hands to provide a slap on the wrist.
Stroman said CPAC has no ability to discipline the CHPD, and during the meeting, members of the community continually expressed concerns about police accountability.
“If police are scared to hold other police accountable, then how are we as citizens going to feel okay, feel empowered or have any sort of confidence our grievances will lead to any meaningful change,” Juan Tuset, a Chapel Hill resident, said.
Other groups in the meeting shared that they wanted CPAC to review applicants for the police department, help individuals exit the criminal justice system and engage with student activists. Stroman said members of CPAC should be required or strongly encouraged to educate themselves on policing, sparking dialogue with other attendees.
“Without understanding where we have been, how can we then come forward with solutions?" Miller said. "Education around policing historically and contextually is really going to be important going forward.”
The meeting closed with a series of poll questions, including whether the CHPD, another entity or the CHPD in conjunction with another entity should handle crisis situations. Of those in attendance, 71 percent stated they hoped that a joint entity would handle crisis situations.
Chris Blue, the police chief for Chapel Hill, said he voted for a joint response, and the CHPD currently has a built-in crisis unit that helps de-escalate crisis situations.
“They help us think about our work in ways most police departments aren’t asked to,” Blue said.
However, he said police officers are still necessary in certain circumstances in order to ensure the safety of the crisis unit worker and the individual in question.
Allan Chrisman, a current member of CPAC, said there are openings for the committee that need to be filled. He said CPAC only works when the community is actively engaged.
Miller said the work CPAC is doing is personal for her.
“It is literally a life and death kind of approach I take to safety when I understand how Black bodies are perceived in public spaces and the dangers of that,” Miller said.
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