How can Chapel Hill prevent itself from becoming the next Tulsa, the next Charlotte, the next Ferguson? Are we taking the right steps now – and what more do we need to do?
Protests are still ongoing, across the state and beyond, after last week’s shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott by a police officer in Charlotte.
The details surrounding the incident are still in question. But Scott’s death (one in a series of similar incidents nationwide) has nevertheless helped spark a conversation about race in America, racial disparities in policing, and the relationship between police and residents, particularly African-American residents.
What are the facts? Numerous studies have confirmed that police departments across the country do, in fact, have a tendency to treat African-Americans differently. (One especially disturbing study out of UC-Davis found that black Americans are 3.49 times more likely than white Americans to be shot by police while unarmed.)
This is not because police officers are somehow uniquely racist. In fact one study by the University of Chicago has found that police officers are less likely to discriminate than members of the general population.
But the disparities persist – and not for the reasons you might think. There’s little correlation with crime rates, for one; police shootings are just as likely to occur in lower-crime cities as higher-crime cities. African-Americans are more likely than whites to have their vehicles searched after being pulled over – but police actually find contraband at a higher rate when searching vehicles driven by whites. (That disparity was particularly egregious in Ferguson, Missouri – where “black motorists were more than twice as likely to be searched as whites following a traffic stop, but were 26% less likely to be found in the possession of contraband,” according to a forthcoming report co-written by UNC professor Frank Baumgartner.) And it’s not just white officers who are discriminating: when it comes to racial disparities in policing, statistically speaking it doesn’t matter much whether the officer is white or black. (It was an African-American police officer who shot Keith Scott in Charlotte.)
What about locally? At UNC, Frank Baumgartner has studied traffic stop data for police departments across North Carolina – and he’s found racial disparities in almost all of them. Police are significantly more likely to search the vehicles of African-Americans and Latinos after stopping them (particularly young men), even though they’re no more likely to find anything illegal. Orange County police departments are not immune: researchers have also found disparities in Chapel Hill and Carrboro as well as the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Charles Blackwood, Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue, and Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton have all expressed concerns about those numbers; they’ve each publicly committed to ongoing conversations with the community and active efforts to study possible reforms.
What’s the best way to make progress on this issue? Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump addressed the question at their first presidential debate on Monday. Trump called for an expansion of “stop and frisk” policies, which give police more leeway to search people on the street – arguing that the policy led to a significant drop in New York City’s crime rate. (New York’s crime rate did drop during the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk years – but the crime rate was also dropping nationwide, and there’s still disagreement over how much of a role “stop and frisk” played in New York. Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump supporter, says “stop and frisk” made a difference; current mayor Bill de Blasio, a Clinton supporter, says other factors were more important.) Regardless of the impact on the crime rate, though, the “stop and frisk” policy did exacerbate tensions between the NYPD and the city’s black community – because there was a large racial disparity in how the policy was applied. Black New Yorkers were far more likely than white New Yorkers to be subjected to a frisk – so much so that a district court judge struck down the policy as unconstitutional. (The case never went beyond district court, because the city did not appeal.)
Hillary Clinton, on Monday, suggested a different approach. Rather than “stop and frisk,” she said, local law enforcement agencies should focus their efforts on community policing. The “community policing” model begins with a key insight: police officers and citizens often see each other as adversaries because they only encounter each other in moments of conflict, when circumstances are tense and there’s an immediate danger of violence. To build trust and stronger relationships, the community-policing approach encourages officers to engage with residents on a regular basis, in calmer and friendlier circumstances – speaking in classrooms, organizing charity events, getting to know the residents of a neighborhood, and so on. Advocates say that approach will make communities safer: crime rates are lower in close-knit neighborhoods, and people are less likely to break the law when they view “the law” as a friend rather than an adversary. (There’s some data to support the theory: for instance, the national crime rate dropped dramatically during the 1990s, the same time “community policing” became popular – though of course other factors may have played a larger role there.) But aside from the effect on crime rates, community-policing advocates also say the approach will ease tensions between police and African-Americans – and eventually begin to mitigate disparities as well.
Orange County’s local police departments have largely embraced the community-policing model, an approach that local African-American leaders applaud – even though they maintain (and local police chiefs agree) that there remain statistical disparities that still need to be addressed. Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP president Rev. Robert Campbell says Orange County’s approach – going all in on community policing while actively fostering a dialogue about race – could be (and should be) a model for other communities, like Charlotte and Tulsa and Ferguson.
That’s not to say ‘it can’t happen here’ – after all, it can happen anywhere – but Rev. Campbell says the local community is tackling the issue the right way.
Rev. Robert Campbell spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/race-and-policing-are-we-addressing-it-right
The Carrboro Police Department has hired a consultant to review a 2014 report that found evidence of racial bias in the department’s policing. Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton made the announcement at a public forum held Monday night.
Concerns about racial profiling in the Carrboro Police Department came to the fore after UNC-Chapel Hill professor Frank Baumgartner released a report last year showing that in Carrboro, black and Latino drivers were more likely than white drivers to be stopped and searched. The police department held a forum to discuss racial profiling last fall. Chief Horton says the department has taken several recommendations that came out of last year’s forum, including racial equity training.
“We have sent all our officers to seek training,” Horton said. “We have trained all our officers since then. We will periodically do that training over, and all new officers that come in will receive that training.”
But Horton says his department saw a few red flags suggesting some of the data Baumgartner analyzed may not have been compiled correctly. The department has hired North Carolina Central University professor Deborah Weisel to help review the department’s data and the Baumgartner report for errors.
“If we got a problem, we got a problem,” Horton said. “Whether it’s your data or Dr. Weisel’s data. And we’ll do what we can to fix it. That’s the bottom line. If there is an issue, which you say there is. We just want to make sure.”
Baumgartner, who was at the forum, says even if there are minor errors, he believes the overall conclusion of the report is accurate and also consistent with trends across the state and the nation.
“I understand that it makes anyone in the position of authority uncomfortable to have these numbers put in front of them because they seem to suggest a responsibility and a problem,” Baumgartner said. “But what I would just ask and plead for on behalf of everybody is, please don’t feel defensive about it. Carrboro is not the only agency with racial disparities in traffic stops and people who get searched. It’s a nation-wide issue.”
Community members attending the forum had many ideas for improving the fairness of policing in Carrboro. The creation of a civilian-led advisory board to oversee the department was one idea that got a lot of discussion—and a lot of push-back from police officers, like officer David Deshaies.
“It quite frankly terrifies that someone taking a 40-hour class is going to make decisions sitting in an air-conditioned room on whether I keep my job or not,” Deshaies said. “They’ve never been there, they’ve never even done a ride-a-long, ridden for one shift, even a few hours of one shift, to see what happens and what it looks like from the seat of that car.”
Town Alderman Sammy Slade signaled interest in discussing the idea at future town meetings.
“I think there’s a lot of rich exploration and a good conversation that could come about from engaging in that kind of discussion,” he said.
Chief Horton says his department will take time to consider the recommendations made in the forum, but that many suggestions require staffing and resources the department doesn’t have.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/carrboro-police-to-conduct-own-review-of-racial-profiling-report
A new program of the Carrboro Police Department and Orange County to prevent drug overdose deaths paid off for the first time on Monday night, as a Carrboro officer administered a drug that saved a life.
“Naloxone is, itself, and old drug, but for law enforcement use, it’s reasonably new,” said Capt. Chriis Atack of the Carrboro Police Dept. “We’ve only been carrying it since October of 2014.”
Atack told WCHL that at around 8;15 p.m. Monday, Carrboro police and EMS responded to a report of a drug overdose. A Carrboro police officer arrived first on the scene. After assessing the condition of the overdose victim and talking to a witness, the officer administered naxolone.
The person is out of the hospital and doing well, according to Atack.
Naloxone is an opiate antagonist that temporarily reverses the effects of an overdose, providing a brief window of opportunity.
“When you are overdosing on an opiate, receptors in your brain are blocked by the actual drug itself,” said Atack. “And what naloxone does is, basically, free up those receptors so that your body can continue to function and breathe. It gives you that time where you can get somebody to a medical facility.”
Atack said that, depending on the health of the patient and other factors, that “time bridge,” as he calls it, is between 30 and 60 minutes.
The Carrboro Police Department partnered with Orange County EMS and the Orange County Health Department and the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition to start an emergency naloxone program last fall.
WCHL’s Blake Hodge contributed to this story.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/carrboro-police-utilize-life-saving-anti-overdose-drug-1st-time-successfully
Police chiefs from Chapel Hill and Carrboro will meet with the local NAACP Saturday to answer questions about racial equity in Orange County policing.
The meeting follows up on forums held back in October, after citizens started asking questions about military gear and tactics used by local police departments all over the U.S.
Such issues were highlighted by unrest in Ferguson, MO. over the Aug. 9 death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, who was shot by Police Officer Darren Wilson. The officer was not charged in the incident.
Concerns over policing were also stirred by a New York Times article that shed light on the 1033 program of the Department of Defense.
The program supplies surplus military gear to local law enforcement agencies nationwide. Chapel Hill and Carrboro police have, at times, participated in the program, but did not receive high-powered weapons, according to both chiefs.
Chief Chris Blue of the Chapel Hill Police Department hosted a forum with citizens at the Chapel Hill Public Library on Oct 4.
Blue addressed concerns about low recruitment of African-American officers on his force by saying the CHPD had “not done a very good job” in that area, but he added that applications have been generally declining in recent years.
Two days later, Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton held a similar forum at Town Hall. He admitted that he took exception to questions about racial profiling.
“We don’t racially profile,” said Horton. “To be honest with you, I kind of feel offended by that, because, being the first black chief – I know how it feels to grow up being a black male here. I’ve been walking, and had people cross the street. I’ve been in other places and looked at funny by the police. I know how that feels. So, I would not let that go on.”
Both chiefs have attended Organizing Against Racism workshop training since holding their October forums.
Saturday’s meeting of the Orange County NAACP and the police chiefs of Chapel Hill and Carrboro takes place at noon at the Rogers Road Community Center on 101 Edgar St. in Chapel Hill.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-town/police-chiefs-chapel-hill-carrboro-meet-naacp
Eighteen Morris Grove Elementary School students will get help shopping for holiday gifts this year, thanks to the Carrboro Police Department and the Optimist Club of Chapel Hill.
For the third time since 2012, the Optimist Club picked a school to participate in the “Shop with a Cop” program. Students get paired up with Carrboro police officers to shop for gifts for family, friends, and themselves.
This year, the participating Morris Grove students were chosen by Angela Snider, the school’s social worker.
“It’s a way to pair students up with an officer, and they go to Wal-Mart together, and the officer’s kind of the student’s personal shopper, and helps them find the things on their list,” said Snider.
Officers get matched with their shopping partners at the school, and everybody rides the bus together, to the store and back.
To further sweeten the experience, each student goes into the store with a $75 gift card.
“The parents that I have contacted and spoken with are very excited about it and receptive,” said Snider, “and the kids are thrilled. They keep asking me when we’re going to go to Wal-Mart.”
Public Information Officer Captain Chris Atack of the Carrboro Police Department says he regrets that he’s not going to be able to participate this time, because he’ll be in training that day.
But he has fond memories of being paired up with a McDougle Middle School Student for the first one, back in 2012.
“Sometimes you’ll get questions about what you do as a police officer,” said Atack. “But for the most part, it’s just conversations about how their school year’s going; what they’re thinking about for the holidays; and what their favorite subjects are.”
Atack said it’s mostly about “just allowing kids to be kids, and in some sense, letting the cops be kids, too.”
The special shopping trip to the Hillsborough Wal-Mart takes place December 2nd.
The Optimist Club of Chapel Hill is a non-profit group dedicated to inspiring an optimistic outlook in kids, as well as patriotism and respect for the law.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-town/morris-grove-elementary-students-shop-cop-holidays
Carrboro police will now carry kits to help prevent drug overdose deaths. The kits contain Naloxone, which temporarily blocks the effects of opiates.
Officials say accidental poisoning deaths have risen 300 percent in North Carolina since 1999, and opiate overdoses account for 92 percent of that increase.
All Carrboro officers, including those who work in patrol, schools and community services will be issued the kits and trained to administer the drug nasally.
Since December of last year, the Orange County Health Department has offered the life-saving kits to friends and family members of opiate users, along with training on how to use them.
Under the 2013 Good Samaritan law, people who seek help for an overdose victim can no longer be prosecuted for possession of small amounts of drugs, paraphernalia, or for underage drinking. This is meant to encourage reporting of overdoses and get victims help right away.
Police say that if you suspect someone has overdosed, call 911 and stay with the person until help arrives.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/carrboro-police-carry-overdose-prevention-kits
A community forum with Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton was originally planned as a response to public concerns about military tactics, weapons and gear used by law officers nationwide. But most of Monday night’s two-hour conversation at Town Hall was about racial profiling.
“The idea for this community conversation about policing came out of the events in Ferguson earlier this year, and specifically, actually, questions about militarization,” said Carrboro mayor Lydia Lavelle, addressing a packed Town Hall Board Room on Monday night.
“While that might be discussed somewhat tonight, we decided, and the chief did also, that it was time for a community conversation just about community policing in general.”
There were, indeed, questions from citizens to Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton about the town’s participation in the 1033 program of The U.S. Department of Defense.
The conduct of Ferguson, MO police, and the combat gear they used to deal with protesters after a policeman shot and killed Michael Brown on Aug. 9, shone a national spotlight on the program, which supplies military surplus items to local law enforcement agencies.
The items range from boots and filing cabinets to tanks and grenade launchers.
Horton responded to questions about that.
“We are members of that program, but we haven’t actively participated in several, several years.”
Horton got a big laugh in the room when said he doesn’t think that Carrboro needs grenade launchers.
He added that the department buys its own weapons, and that those are the same weapons any citizen could purchase at Wal-Mart, or Dick’s Sporting Goods. In reality, he said, the 39 sworn officers of the department are outgunned.
Horton said the department was forced to re-evaluate its weapons policy after 26-year-old UNC law student Wendell Williamson randomly opened fire with an M-1 rifle along Henderson Street in Chapel Hill on January 26,1995, killing two people and wounding a few others.
Horton, a uniformed officer at the time, was in court in Chapel Hill that day, and he was one of the officers that returned fire on Williamson and brought him down. He said he still thanks the magnolia tree he was hiding behind for shielding him from one of Williamson’s bullets, which hit the tree near his head.
Before that incident, he said, rifles at the Carrboro Police Department had been locked up so long, they had started to rust. After that day, they were pulled out of storage.
But Carrboro resident Corey Edwards said he did not see the need for rifles, nor the protective jackets and shields displayed by police officers at the forum. When police are armed like that, he asked, then what is to prevent another Ferguson happening in Carrboro?
“This town doesn’t need that,” said Edwards. “It doesn’t need that. You said the guns were rusted. Let the guns rust. You don’t need it.”
Edwards also related a story of his wife being pulled over on Rogers Road while he was in the passenger seat, an experience that felt like racial profiling to him, given the circumstances.
He wasn’t the only person in the room to raise the issue, and Horton took some exception.
“We don’t racially profile,” said Horton. “To be honest with you, I kind of feel offended by that, because, being the first black chief – I know how it feels to grow up being a black male here. I’ve been walking, and had people cross the street. I’ve been in other places and looked at funny by the police.
“I know how that feels. So, I would not let that go on.”
Alderperson Michelle Johnson said she realized Horton was in a tough spot, but added that a conversation about racial profiling, when it comes to traffic stops and other interactions with police, needed to take place.
“Because racism exists, racial profiling exists,” said Johnson. “I don’t know if you feel like you’re in the position of having to answer for everyone’s behavior in your department,” said Johnson. “You probably do feel like that. And I feel like the conversation might shift if we just agree that racism is present, and that Carrboro is no different than any other place.”
James Williams, a public defender for Orange and Chatham Counties, and a Carrboro resident for 24 years, agreed.
“This whole concept of structural racism, implicit bias, unconscious racism, sometimes affects our decision-making, even when we are not aware of it,” said Williams. “We need to get away from this concern that somebody’s suggesting that somebody is racist.”
Williams then summarized data regarding police stops and interactions with citizens in Carrboro between 2004 and 2013.
Out of a total 25,821 stops, he said, there were 1,712 searches and 722 consent searches.
African Americans were stopped 5,764 times, and 692 were searched.
But while 15,306 white people were stopped, only 545 were searched.
Williams said the data showed that African Americans that got stopped were 233 percent more likely to be searched in Carrboro.
Despite some tough topics, the conversation never got heated, and citizens thanked Horton several times for being there, as well as for the good work police do in the community.
Local activist Manju Rajendran and others suggested that citizen boards be allowed more oversight over police.
“Rather than shaping our agreements around faith and trust towards folks in your position, I’d like us to move towards a set of policies that reflect what we’ve heard in this room,” said Rajendran.
A few citizens said they’d like to see police wearing body cameras. Horton said the department would like that, but right now, they’re cost-prohibitive. The department recently started using car cameras.
Horton said that traffic stops often result from erratic driving, or information that comes up on an officer’s screen, such as an expired license.
Searches, he added, are most likely prompted by suspicious behavior, or other factors, such as the smell of marijuana smoke.http://chapelboro.com/news/horton-forum
Images of heavily-armed riot police in armored trucks rolling through the streets of Ferguson, Missouri prompted nationwide scrutiny of a federal program that funnels military surplus to police and sheriff’s offices around the country.
It also has many in Orange County pondering exactly what military equipment has gone to local agencies and why.
In mid-August, the New York Times reported that law enforcement in Orange County received 44 assault rifles and six armored vehicles. The Times has since issued a correction, saying some of the numbers reported were too high. According to the latest version of the Times report, Orange County received only three armored vehicles and 22 rifles.
As WCHL reported last week, Carrboro and Hillsborough police do not have any armored vehicles in their fleets. Chapel Hill has one Peacekeeper armored truck that has never been deployed and Orange County has a V-150 Commando that has been used once to extricate a man barricaded inside a home.
The Sheriff’s Department also has two inoperable armored trucks that supply parts for the Commando, and a pair of five-ton military trucks used to move trees after storms.
No local agency reports receiving weapons from the federal program.
In a joint statement from Carrboro, Hillsborough, Chapel Hill and Orange County, each law enforcement agency reiterated its commitment to community policing and invited public feedback.
Chapel Hill and Carrboro police plan to host a series of public forums to answer questions, though the dates and times have not yet been announced.
Hillsborough police will provide an update to the Town Board on September 8 on revisions to use of force policies and the deployment of new body cameras.
Carrboro and Chapel Hill police are also planning to report to the Board of Aldermen and the Town Council in the next 30 days.
You can read the full statement here:
All law enforcement agencies in Orange County share a policing philosophy that emphasizes outreach, partnerships, and community collaboration. We listen to our residents, learn from their input, and respond to expectations. The following summarizes the many ways that each jurisdiction approaches community policing and provides transparent, accessible public information:
Although the Town of Carrboro does not possess the kinds of armored vehicles recently described in media reports, the Carrboro Police Department is gathering additional information about equipment, training and policies and will share this information with the Board of Aldermen within the next 30 days.
In the spirit of community policing and in keeping with a human services model of law enforcement, the Carrboro Police Department has a lengthy history of community engagement. Recent programs include Coffee With a Cop, Shop With a Cop, Prescription Drug Drop-off events and a Prescription Drug Drop-off Box, National Night Out, an art project to decorate the police station involving students from Carrboro Elementary School and instruction about the dangers of texting while driving in driver’s education classes at Carrboro High School. Programs under development include naloxone deployment and the creation and implementation of an in-car camera system policy in partnership with the ACLU of North Carolina.
The Town of Chapel Hill Police Department (CHPD) is equally committed to gathering information about equipment, training, and policies and will share this information with the Town Council within the next 30 days.
The CHPD practices a community policing philosophy that emphasizes outreach, partnerships and community collaboration. As a learning organization, it is committed to continued self-examination, as evidenced by many policy and procedural developments that have emerged from community input.
The Town’s Community Policing Advisory Committee has been instrumental in providing a regular forum for community input about the expectations of its police department. Through the committee’s work, the CHPD has learned important lessons over the past few years about the challenges of balancing the rights of citizens who are expressing themselves with the rights of those who are encroached upon and protecting both protestors and observers.
All CHPD officers have been or will soon be trained in crisis intervention techniques, and the department’s Community Safety Partnership Program has expanded to serve as a town-wide community watch. Neighborhood outreach efforts include the Good Neighbor Initiative and National Night Out, both of which provide an opportunity to reach more residents. The Police2Citizen (P2C) website at http://p2c.chpd.us/ allows users to view and map recent arrest records, view daily police bulletins and search for specific incidents.
The Chapel Hill Community Police Academy http://bit.ly/1nHdYzM regularly provides community members with an “inside look” at how the police department functions. These sessions include a demonstration of the one armored vehicle that the Town does own, together with a discussion of its intended use in rescue scenarios. The CHPD holds annual meetings with local media partners to hear their feedback on how well it is responding to meet their needs. A quarterly professional standards report, capturing the numbers and trends in complaints, is presented to the Community Policing Advisory Committee and made available on the Town website at http://bit.ly/1zytXGr .
The Town of Hillsborough has led conversations over the past several years on the use of force and on concerns over the militarization and perception of the police. Last December, the Hillsborough Police Department hosted a community summit that included a summary of the department’s use of force and a public discussion of a new, draft use of force policy that the department is working to implement. To improve transparency, plans were already in place to include statistics on the use of force in the 2014 and future annual reports. In addition, the police department has tested, purchased and is currently working to deploy body-worn cameras, which the Town hopes will provide better safety and accountability for officers and the public. The department does not own military style armored vehicles of any kind.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office is a community service-oriented organization dedicated and committed to the citizens of Orange County. The Sheriff’s Office provides numerous community-oriented services, such as SALT (Seniors and Law Enforcement Together), which provides daily checks on senior citizens, house checks for citizens who are out of town, DARE and GREAT training for school students, Life Track (a technology used for locating children with special needs and adults with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia who wander away from their caretaker), fingerprinting and photos for child identification, field trips at the Sheriff’s Office for local elementary and high school students, meal deliveries for OCIM, an extensively involved Community Watch program, a Domestic Violence/Crisis Unit to assist victims with domestic violence issues throughout the county, and participation in parades and various county-sponsored events. The Sheriff’s Office has participated for over 25 years in the senior citizen May Day Celebration at the community center by preparing hamburgers and hot dogs for the senior citizens.
The Sheriff’s Office has over a period of more than 20 years participated in the use of surplus federal equipment. Equipment the Sheriff’s Office has received includes four-wheel-drive pickup trucks to be used in inclement weather to patrol, assist fire rescue and EMS, transport emergency personnel to their places of employment (hospital, 911 communications, health care workers, etc.), check on stranded motorists and to serve the citizens of the county by transporting people to and from the hospital and transporting medication and food supplies to those who are unable to leave their residence due to the weather. This equipment has been used extensively during Hurricane Fran and during the numerous winter storms that we have endured here in Orange County. Orange County has one armored vehicle that was obtained more than 12 years ago. It has been used only one time since being acquired by the Sheriff’s Office, during the need to extricate an armed person who had barricaded himself inside a residence in a populated neighborhood. We have two five-ton military trucks that have been used to remove large trees from the county roadways during various severe storms, including the aftermath of Hurricane Fran. Our weapons, such as shotguns and rifles, are non-military county equipment and are never removed from the trunk of the patrol car by any officer unless the situation is endangering the lives of citizens or officers and then only with the authorization of the on-duty supervisor. All of our patrol cars are camera equipped for the safety and accountability of both the officer and the citizen and are deployed on each traffic stop. We continually strive and endeavor to seek any and all methods to assist the citizens of Orange County. We continually train our deputies and stress to them the importance of treating each individual they encounter in the manner that they would wish to be treated.
Law enforcement agencies in Orange County are open to suggestions and ideas that would benefit the community.
For more information, contact Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton at 919-918-7397 firstname.lastname@example.org, Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue at 919-968-2760 or email@example.com, and Hillsborough Police Chief Duane Hampton at 919-732-9381.
CARRBORO- A changing of the guard takes place in Carrboro this weekend as the police department welcomes a new chief.
After nearly three decades of service to the town, Chief Carolyn Hutchinson is stepping down.
She joined the force in 1984 and rose through the ranks, earning the top job in 1998 when she became the state’s first openly gay police chief.
Taking her place will be Carrboro native Walter Horton. A 20-year veteran of the department, he recently beat out more than 100 applicants in a nationwide search for Carrboro’s next chief of police.
Horton takes over from Hutchinson on Sunday. He’ll be officially sworn in at 2:30 Tuesday afternoon at a ceremony in Carrboro Town Hall.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-town/carrboro-welcomes-new-police-chief
CHAPEL HILL – As technology becomes increasingly important in today’s society, several branches of the local government are turning more to social media to communicate with the public—but some officials are still cautious about making the shift.
For the Chapel Hill Police Department, Sgt. Josh Mecimore says officers are primarily focused on using Twitter instead of Facebook for up-to-the-second news.
“In the past, we’ve kind of put out the same content on both services,” he says. “Moving forward, I think you’ll see more of the current events and up-to-the-minute kinds of things on Twitter, and then we’ll use Facebook for more of the information about ongoing investigations, trying to elicit information from the public, and more detailed information about things we’re doing around town.”
Mecimore says the CHPD’s Twitter page seen particular success when it comes to traffic enforcement announcements.
“When we put out that our traffic enforcement is out doing doing speed enforcement or stop sign violations in a particular part of town, that’s one of the things that gets re-tweeted the most by people,” he says. “That seems like it’s of great interest of people, and they want to send it out to their followers so that they know we’re doing speed enforcement somewhere and we’re not trying to hide it.”
But unlike Chapel Hill, the town of Carrboro hasn’t set up social media sites for law enforcement.
“The town has a Facebook and Twitter account, but there’s not a separate one for the police department at this time,” says Lt. Chris Atack of the Carrboro Police Department. “So, if there’s any sort of information that needs to go out about upcoming events or other public safety issues, we usually use those two outlets.’
Still, Atack says the idea isn’t off the table for some point in the future.
“It’s been an avenue we’ve been looking at for a period of time because there are obviously departments in the area that have Facebook presence specifically, and there’s certainly usefulness in that application,” he says. “So that’s something we’re exploring.”
For the Town of Hillsborough, Facebook has been a useful tool in the apprehension of suspects. According to the town’s website, in March 2012, officers started using Facebook to request tips from the public—since that time, 14 posts have resulted in suspect identifications or arrests. Facebook tips have also led officers to recover numerous stolen items.
Meanwhile, in the educational branch of local government, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board member James Barrett says while social media can be valuable, it’s not without its risks.
“I think the biggest risk is that it’s very easy to say something that could be taken out of context,” he says. “As is the case with really all electronic communication, there’s no tone, so people lose that perspective on what’s being said.”
The Chapel-Hill Carrboro City School district does have both a Twitter and a Facebook page, but Barrett says right now, the board’s members are leaving most social media projects to district Executive Director of Community Relations Jeff Nash.
“I think Mr. Nash is certainly cognizant of trying to communicate with people more, and so I think he’s looking for ways to do that, but I don’t think it’s been a serious push of the board.”
But Barrett, who recently wrote a blog post on the growing role of social media in local governments, says he acknowledges the importance of social media for the district, especially for sharing images.
“I think particularly our Facebook presence allows us to share photos,” he says. “It’s been great for people to see pictures of things like Northside Elementary going up, for example. We’re definitely moving in the right direction.”http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/social-media-some-local-government-branches-embrace-it-some-still-cautious