Carrboro joining other communities in studying police force; changes could come

Orange County News

CARRBORO, N.C. (WNCN) — The Town of Carrboro is moving forward with plans for a task force that will study potential changes related to policing and the community.

Tuesday night, the town council voted to appoint six members to a Community Safety Task Force, which will focus on “developing new approaches to public safety beyond policing,” according to town documents published earlier this year.

Council member and Mayor-Elect Damon Seils said a key focus of the group’s work will be looking for opportunities to help community members, rather than addressing problems through the criminal justice system.

“Maybe there are ways to invest in resources that don’t involve policing, where, say, a gun and a badge aren’t necessary to address an issue,” he said.

These are conversations leaders in Carrboro have shared interest in having dating back to June 2020, in the weeks following the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Carrboro is not alone in examining changes for its police force during the coronavirus pandemic when calls to police involving mental health crises are on the rise.

Earlier this year, Raleigh police implemented a new program called ACORNS, which stands for Addressing Crises through Outreach, referrals, Networking, and Service. Among other things, the approach involves social workers accompanying officers on certain calls.

The city of Durham is spending millions of dollars on a new program where unarmed responders will join officers on some calls.

In Chapel Hill earlier this year, a task force similar to Carrboro’s issued 28 recommendations related to policing changes. Chapel Hill officials told CBS 17 Tuesday that work toward implementing those recommendations “is still underway.”

Carrboro’s task force is expected to study the town’s services and provide recommendations within a year or 18 months if needed.

Seils said the hope is to help citizens and support and supplement the town’s police force.

“This is a way of identifying where we’re doing great work and where we can be doing better, with the ultimate goal of supporting people in the community… supporting their wellbeing and making sure everyone feels safe here,” Seils said.

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