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Report: Apex Police Department Is Dysfunctional, Entrenched In Racial Bias

Apex Police Vehicle
Nick B.
via Flickr

A report on the Apex Police Department says racial bias is entrenched in its culture.

The Apex Town Council hired an outside contractor ― Raleigh-based Diversity & HR Solutions ― to conduct interviews with everyone in the department last fall. The report was submitted in October and the town released a redacted version last week. It says under former Police Chief John Letteney, the department had dysfunctional leadership and communication.

It also describes tension between the town council and police department after Black Lives Matter demonstrations last summer.

The report includes a statement from at least one officer suggesting George Floyd was responsible for his own death at the hands of police officer in Minneapolis, and that police were not responsible. Floyd was a 46-year-old Black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Another officer, according to the report, described the Black Lives Matter movement as “an anarchy to create division and overthrow the police.”

“It was very disturbing, very concerning, and it clearly revealed that we have work to do,” Apex Mayor Jacques Gilbert said. “And it allowed us to really get an understanding of where we were - or are - at the time, and take a look at how can we develop an action plan to address the concerns.”

Gilbert is a former Apex police captain. He was elected mayor in 2019.

The report says a culture existed where officers felt comfortable making blatantly racist comments, and "the entrenchment goes deep.”

As of December, the town listed a population of 68,529. Based on figures from the U.S. Census in 2019, Apex is 79% white, 7% Hispanic and 6% Black.

Interim Police Chief Tony Godwin says he doesn't believe the report represents the entire department. But he says he's reviewing policies and he will create a new manager position to develop more diversity and racial equity training.

Godwin added that he does not believe the report accurately portrays all of his officers.

“That's one of my biggest concerns is that people will paint this entire department with a broad brush based on the comments of what very well may be one person or very few people,” Godwin said.

The report made a number of recommendations, among them a requirement for a two-day racial equity training for all leadership and police officers by the Racial Equity Institute in Greensboro. It also called for targeting more Black, Hispanic and women for recruitment as police officers, and for a diversity officer as well as a diversity committee inside the department.

Godwin says he's meeting with every officer one-on-one, reviewing policies, and will hire a diversity and racial equity expert.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
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