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Durham residents express concerns about transparency in search for new police chief

By Carleigh Griffeth, WNCN News - DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) -- Durham residents sounded off Monday night about the search for a new police chief.

A forum was held by the search agency, Developmental Associates, to get community input. And though only a couple dozen people came out for the meeting, the search team got plenty of feedback to consider.

"What we want to find out from the community is what are those key challenges and responsibilities that the chief would have to contend with, and then we'll structure exercises so we can directly see those competencies first-hand," said Steve Straus, President of Developmental Associates.

Straus explained to the crowd how the search process will work. They will be taking applications through the end of January. In February the candidates will be screened. In March a group of people selected by the city will begin assessing the candidates. Then the final several candidates will undergo an intensive background check.

Many people at the forum were unhappy with the process, asking for more transparency.

"People are concerned that decisions are being made behind closed doors and we want to be able to see the whole process," said Durham resident and teacher LeVon Barnes.

As many comments or questions were posed about Developmental Associates' process of vetting candidates, as there were about the successor to current Chief Jose Lopez. Lopez was forced to retire in September after continuing concerns about the force.

"Community input's a real critical piece of this," said Straus.

Straus made sure people knew their opinions are being considered, and agrees the next chief will play a crucial role in moving Durham forward.

"I think there are some significant trust issues, I think there are some dramatic changes in the country going on with policing and the trust of police. And I think the next police chief is going to be very critical in terms of turning that around for the city of Durham," said Straus.

"The new police chief has to come in here and engage the young community, the youth, as well as the people that have been living here for generations, and engage them in a way that we can force the trust again," said Barnes.

There will be two more forums Tuesday. One will be catered towards Spanish speaking Durham residents at El Centro Hispano at 5:45 p.m. The other will be a smaller closed-session meeting with representatives from area organizations. You can also give input online by <a href="http://http://www.empliant.com/survey/F725A3FF2-D783-DF63-F799/" target="_blank">clicking here.


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