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Durham leaders turn eye toward DPD’s specialized crime unit

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DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) — There is increased scrutiny on police departments’ specialized units across the country and that’s also the case in the Triangle following the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols at the hands of former Memphis police officers from their SCORPION unit.

“I think that police departments across the country should always be looking at deployment posture and should always be reviewing how they sent officers into the street, what type of groupings what type of units,” said Mark-Anthony Middleton, Durham’s mayor pro tem. “But I don’t want us to be lulled into a false sense of security, that this was just a configuration issue. Those officers are problems that those officers would be problems wherever they were.”

In Durham, city leaders want to be updated on the Police Department’s Crime Area Target Team (CATT). It’s a citywide operation where officers conduct patrols where there’s been violent activity

“While we certainly need to look at the way we deploy officers, and I’m going to be asking the administration, actually to take a look at Durham’s use of specialized teams, we’ve got a root problem, we’ve got a culture problem that has to be addressed,” Middleton said.

The team supplements the work happening on uniform patrol and the organized crime division. From April to September of last year, the team made 1,390 stops. More than 1,100 of the stops involved Black men and women.

Nearly 80% of the stops were for vehicle regulatory and equipment violations.

City council member Jillian Johnson told ABC11 on Tuesday that she believed the practices of CATT had a racially discriminatory effect on Black residents in Durham.

Her colleague, council member Javiera Caballero, said asking questions about the PD’s specialized units is appropriate. She said it’s important that trust isn’t damaged.

“I think we need to have more information to understand better what is happening,” Caballero said. “We’ve done a lot of diligent work in Durham to kind of move away from these, you know, basically a lot of kind of randomized searches, right? Because we have learned that often folks of color are targeted, right? That is not to say that this is what this program is doing. But just historically, that has been the trend. And so there has been a lot of work previously to kind of step away from that.”

On Monday, a group called Durham Beyond Policing is holding a news conference where it will address how it perceives that Durham officers police communities that are made predominantly of ethnic minorities.

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