With dozens of Durham police vacancies, local group urges city leaders to fill them with unarmed responders

North Carolina

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Recently, grassroots political organization, Durham For All, sent a letter to Durham City Council.

In it, was a demand for change.

They are calling on city leaders to transfer vacancies within the Durham Police Department to a new department of community safety and hire unarmed professionals to respond to some of the 911 calls.

According to the city, Durham police has 60 vacancies.

“So, we want to move those vacancies over to a department of community safety,” said Shanise Hamilton.

Hamilton is a community organizer with Durham For All.

She said safety is the key element to this plan. The organization believes the unarmed professionals would be better equipped to respond to some calls.

“It’s a way for us to start really thinking of alternatives to policing and keeping our community safe. We know that there are a lot of black and brown folk who are scared to call the police and scared to ask for help,” Hamilton explained.

It’s a decision that would have to be considered in the city’s budget talks in the coming months.

In an email from the city, it says, “all aspects of developing a budget to meet the city’s needs, including what’s needed to keep the community safe through policing and other efforts, such as a department of community safety and its needed resources, are being discussed.

“It would be premature to discuss how areas of the police department budget, such as vacancies, could or should be used to provide resources for the community safety department.”

“I think there is a good part of our community that is open to it,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton said the organization plans to meet with members of the city council next week to discuss this idea.

They are also hoping to work with Durham Beyond Policing.

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