DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Several people and city, county and state leaders gathered Sunday at St. Joseph AME Church to welcome new members to the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People (DCABP).
The group, formed in 1935, has played a strong role in advocating for Durham residents — specifically the African American community.
“Tomorrow morning, we roll up our sleeves and get busy to try and build out the organization. We have some vacant positions that we need to fill. We need to get input from the community on what our priorities should be,” said Walter Jackson, the new chairman of DCABP.
Jackson said the committee has worked with community leaders and groups to address issues including affordable housing, public safety and education. In Jackson’s new position, he told CBS 17 that he hopes to expand the group.
During the meeting, several speakers took the opportunity to address the committee and express issues that have come to the spotlight after the release of video during a traffic stop earlier this month.
The topic of public safety became a focus for many while addressing what happened in Memphis and the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.
“If one police officer had stood up in that moment… just one,” said Durham Police Chief Patrice Andrews Sunday afternoon. Andrews said the Memphis incident shocked and disappointed people across the nation and reinforced their commitment to the public’s safety.
“We seem to be disillusioned with the fact that our system has gotten better, because if our system had gotten better and taken these strides, what we witnessed would have never happened,” Andrew said.
Andrews emphasized that public safety does not just mean reducing violent crime, but also said that the department is committed to keeping people safe from the hands of those that destroy with power.
“Public safety hits a little bit different now, I think about the safety of those that we serve at our hands,” she said.
The issue of police brutality is one that Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead also hoped to address. Birkhead believes the five Memphis officers charged with second-degree murder failed their community and said that failure will not be something that happens in Durham County.
“I’m more disgusted that those five Black officers failed to see the humanity in another Black man,” he said.
Birkhead believes under strong leadership, working together can ensure a safer and better community. He said the state has already made strides in making changes through the Governor’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice.
“We’ve been at this work for 2 ½ years and we came up with a number of recommendations — 125 recommendations at every stage of the criminal justice process,” said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.
Stein, a co-chair of the task force, said members focused on solutions to increase public safety while also focusing on fairness. Stein said he has been able to see the partnerships with law enforcement lead to huge strides in tackling the opioid epidemic, improving the criminal justice system as well as eliminating the backlog of untested sexual assault kits.
As a new officer with the committee, Jackson hopes to get to work right away. Community leaders expressed their gratitude to the members of DCABP and their work to improve the Durham community.
Other officers installed include:
Second Vice Chair: Shea Ramirez
Third Vice Chair: Thelma White
Executive Secretary: Dr. Tara Fikes
Civic Committee Chair: Angelique Stallings
Civic Committee Vice Chair: Rosa S. Anderson
Health and Safety Committee Chair: Dr. Wanda Boone
Legal Redress Chair: Atty. Stephen Valentine
Political Committee Chair: Atty. Cassandra Stokes
Political Committee Vice Chair: Jadda Richardson
Religious and Human Affairs Chair: Dr. B. Angeloe Burch Sr.