Raleigh City Council approves Police Advisory Board appointments, one day after approving the FY ’21 budget

Members of the Raleigh City Council

On Monday, the Raleigh City Council voted unanimously to approve the budget for the 2021 fiscal year. Despite major losses in revenue, according to Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin, resulting in a budget 2.5% smaller than last year’s, the budget increased funding for the police by 1.8%. RPD had requested an additional $2.8 million to support seven specialized units and an equipment upgrade, but the council did not approve the additional funding.

Before voting to approve the budget, Council Member Patrick Buffkin expressed regret that the council had not approved additional funding for the police, calling the move a mistake.

The council also appointed nine members and two alternate members of a newly created police advisory board yesterday afternoon.

The board consists of five specific spots for a mental health provider, a victims’ advocate, an attorney, an LGBTQ+ community member, and one person appointed by the police chief, as well as four at-large members and two alternates.

The original plan for the advisory board had only seven positions, but the city council voted unanimously yesterday to increase the number of at-large positions from two to four and add the two alternate positions.

The board’s mental health provider is Scotia Burrell, a social worker and therapist at Burrell Consulting Group.

The victims’ advocate is Shelia Alamin-Khashoggi. Alamin-Khashoggi ran unsuccessfully for city council in 2017 and 2019, losing to Mayor Pro Tem Corey Branch in the latest election. She is the one who proposed the advisory board on which she will now sit—her proposal in 2018 met with criticism from Raleigh PACT, which said it was not comprehensive enough. She is also the only member of the new board who was unanimously approved.

The attorney is Stacey Carless, who has her own law firm, is the executive director of the NC Counts Coalition, and is a volunteer attorney with Legal Aid of NC.

Jeremy Roca, a real estate broker at Fathom Realty, is the LGBT member.

Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown appointed Gerald Takano, a former police lieutenant who retired from the Raleigh Police Department in 2017. He now runs Mindset Force Management, which provides use-of-force and risk management training to law enforcement agencies.

The four at-large members are Dr. David Bland, Sean Ingram, Genevieve Sims, and Greear Webb.

Bland, now retired, was at one time the vice chairman of the Wake County Democratic Party, the treasurer of the North Carolina Democratic Party, and the special assistant to the governor of Kentucky.

Ingram is an author and a motivational speaker who founded the Sean Ingram Academy, which offers a variety of educational and diversion programs for at-risk youth, including nail technology, creative arts, and a juvenile diversion and in-school intervention program.

Sims is a family law attorney. She was a member of the North Carolina State Board of Elections for eight years.

Webb is a Morehead-Cain scholar and rising sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill and the co-founder of Young Americans Protest and NC Town Hall.

The two alternate members are Deonte’ Thomas and Johnnie Thomas. Deonte’ Thomas is an attorney and Johnnie Thomas is a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) facilitator.

The board’s setup requires that members serve a two-year term with a maximum of three terms, which must be staggered. Council members agreed to discuss the details of the staggered terms at their next meeting on July 7.

Council members did not mention the demand from the Raleigh Demands Justice coalition to publicly support subpoena power for the police advisory board. Last Monday, the council voted unanimously to pledge support and have the police advisory board support the popular 8 Can’t Wait police reform campaign.

Deck-Brown stated at a meeting last Tuesday that the Raleigh Police Department already follows five of the eight reforms the campaign champions—including a duty-to-intervene policy, one of the requests by the Raleigh Demands Justice coalition—and the other three are mentioned in training if not outlined explicitly.

Critics of the campaign have pointed out that major police departments around the country already have a lot of these policies in place, but still struggle with widespread instances of police brutality and misconduct.

The fact that Raleigh already utilizes the majority of these policies is emblematic of this criticism: the policies may be on the book, but what do police departments do if officers break the rules?

Council Member Nicole Stewart posed this question to Deck-Brown at last Tuesday’s meeting. Deck-Brown hedged.

“Officers are disciplined, and disciplined routinely,” she said. When pushed for more detail, she said that due to personnel laws, she could not speak specifically to how individual officers were disciplined for misconduct.

The police advisory board does not have the power to “conduct investigations, hear testimony, contribute to disciplinary action, respond to citizen complaints” or “collect data.” So although the makeup of the board is diverse by all accounts, it remains to be seen if they will be effective in taking any substantive action.

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