Durham City Council Wants To Require Police Officers To Get Written Consent For Searches

Sep 5, 2014

Members of the Durham City Council are trying to address concerns that police officers disproportionately stop and search black men. Four of the seven members gave their support on Thursday afternoon for requiring officers to get a driver's written consent before searching his vehicle.

Durham Police headquarters
Credit Durham Police

City manager Tom Bonfield has suggested officers should be required to get consent in some recorded form - either video, audio or writing - but Mayor Bill Bell says that overcomplicates things.

"You stop someone, you want to search his car. It's a simple matter of saying, 'read the statement,' Bell said at a council hearing Thursday. " If he can't understand English, you call an officer in who can speak his language. Simply, "I want to search your car." And do I have permission to search your car? If I do, sign here, or sign there no."

Community groups, including the Durham People's Alliance and the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, say this policy could help reduce racial disparities in traffic stops. Police, however, say it may obstruct their work.

The city manager could make a decision at a council meeting on Sept. 18.