The Raleigh Police Accountability Community Taskforce, also known as Raleigh PACT, engaged in a peaceful sit-in outside last night’s City Council meeting.
“We will be reviewing their demands,” said Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin at the beginning of the meeting.
To begin to meet those demands, Baldwin said the council approved a virtual community meeting for Thursday, June 4 at 7 p.m., as well as racial equity training for all council members. City council members also requested an internal review of the Raleigh Police Department’s response to the protests this past weekend, despite objections from City Council member Patrick Buffkin during yesterday’s afternoon meeting.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, one resident, Richard Johnson, explicitly criticized Baldwin.
“Our mayor was asleep on the job Saturday night while Raleigh was burning. Add that to her growing list of failures,” said Johnson. The “failures” he mentioned included “letting heavily armed white supremacists march freely downtown while heavily policing nonviolent protesters” and “failing to get a robust police review board set up.”
Johnson called for Baldwin to resign from the mayorship.
Jordan Zhang, on the other hand, called for Baldwin to resign from her new position as the director of business development at Barnhill Contracting Company.
“Taking on this job takes away Baldwin’s focus from leading, which is imperative given the climate,” said Zhang, a 17-year-old who gave her statement on behalf of Young Americans Protest (YAP).
She and Caroline Butler, who is also a member of YAP, listed a series of demands, including an “amendment to RPD’s directives that would control the overpolicing of black and brown communities,” reducing “the increased presence of police in black and brown communities,” the passing of “local restrictions that would limit the the use of military weapons by the RPD,” and “the immediate prohibition of physical escalation and violence as a means of disciplinary action.”
“We demand city council to never again vote to increase funding for the sole purpose of the militarization of law enforcement,” Butler said. “Rather than investing in the RPD, we call for the city council to instead relocate funds toward essential community services and programs that would work to actively address the underlying causes of crime.”
She mentioned several services and programs:
- Violence prevention
- Affordable housing
- Public health solutions
- Protection for low-wage workers
- Adequate responses to mental health and drug crises
The current proposed budget for the next five fiscal years would appropriate $111 million to the Raleigh Police Department.
The City Council will be appointing members to their newly created police advisory board in two weeks, according to Baldwin. But the advisory board has none of the powers accountability groups have been asking for for years.
The #RaleighDemandsJustice Coalition, Recidivism Reduction Educational Program Services (RREPS), Raleigh PACT, Emancipate NC, YAP, Carolina Peace Center, Black and Brown Policy Network, Orchid Bloom, and the ACLU of North Carolina released a joint statement today demanding “a police community oversight board with full disciplinary, investigatory, and subpoena powers,” along with some other policies related to police oversight and accountability. The statement called for Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown’s removal if these demands were not met.
Read the full statement below.
“Raleigh community members have spent years calling for more transparency, oversight, and accountability for the Raleigh police department, starting in 2016 when a Raleigh police officer shot and killed Akiel Denkins, a 24-year-old Black father of two. Since that tragic injustice, city leaders have conducted dozens of community meetings on this very topic, even while incidents of police misconduct, particularly against people of color, continued to occur.
And yet, despite the pleas of community members, city officials have not taken significant steps to prevent such tragedies from happening again or to hold police officers accountable when they violate people’s rights or use excessive force.
The Raleigh City Council must stop paying lip service to its constituents and instead take action immediately to address protesters’ demands and move beyond racial equity training and community dialogue.
The mayor, city council members, and other city officials must give full support to a police community oversight board with full disciplinary, investigatory, and subpoena powers and invest in community-led health and safety initiatives instead of police. They must also direct the Raleigh Police Department to implement a policy requiring police officers to intervene when a fellow officer uses excessive force and combat the over-policing of areas where a large number of Black residents live. If these policy changes are not implemented promptly, we echo the demand to remove Chief Deck-Brown from her office.”