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 email@example.com, Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue at 919-968-2760 or firstname.lastname@example.org, 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-time/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/