A Look at the Durham Police Department

Recently, our class has been discussing police reform efforts of the late 1960s, with much of the reform efforts centered on the suggestions found in the Police Task Force Report. Though we have discussed some of the historical implications and outcomes of the Task Force Report, we have yet to discuss contemporary police agencies and whether they reflect the Report’s suggestions. It is for this reason that I decided to browse the Durham Police Department’s website to look for similarities between its programs and the suggestions of the Task Force Report.

One of the first sections of police reform that the Task Force Report covers is “Police Organization, Management, and Operations,” the third chapter. The report lays out in a flow chart what it deems to be “One Form of a Well Organized Municipal Police Department,” allowing readers to get a sense of the roles and hierarchy found in a supposedly successful police force. On its website, the Durham Police Department has a “Divisions & Units” section that serves a similar purpose, with pages for each of the roles contained in the department. Though the DPD organizational structure does not match up exactly with the example provided in the Task Force Report, there are similarities between the two. For example, the Task Force Report recommends that “Internal Investigation,” “Administration Bureau,” and “Community Relations,” among other divisions, lie directly below the top organizational power of a police force, the Chief of Police. Two of the divisions listed on the DPD’s website are “Administrative Services Bureau” and “Investigative Services Bureau,” suggesting similar divisions to those recommended in the Task Force Report. Additionally, the DPD has an entirely separate section devoted to “Community Resources,” also suggesting implementation of another subject proposed in the report.

Along the same lines, Chapter 6 of the Task Force Report, “The Police and the Community,” covers the need for successful relationships between police and community in greater depth. In particular, it details the importance of “police-community relations units,” something the DPD appears to have covered through its Community Resources efforts. In the same chapter, the Task Force Report mentions “Citizen Contacts,” describing police efforts to engage with the community and listen to their thoughts and feelings. Similarly, a PDF on the DPD website details the Civilian Police Review Board, whose nine selected members “review the determinations of Internal Affairs investigations when a review is requested,” specifically dealing with instances of “[u]se of force,” “[u]nethical conduct,” and “[a]rrest, search and seizure.” Its meetings are open to the public. Though perhaps this takes a slightly different approach than the “Citizen Contacts” prescribed in the Task Force Report, the fact remains that the DPD is actively providing structure and opportunity to engage with community residents. Additionally, the CPRB allows the DPD to engage in one other section of the Task Force Report: Chapter 7’s “Police Integrity.”

These are just a few examples of overlaps I found between the Task Force Report’s recommendations and the Durham Police Department’s actions. Though I don’t know anything about whether the community would deem the DPD’s initiatives successful, and nor do I know if it was the Task Force Report that actually encouraged the DPD to create these programs, it is reassuring to see a police force that reflects aspects of good and moral policing as the Report would define it.

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