Statement from City Manager Wanda Page about the creation of the Community Safety Department:
“One of the highest priorities areas we think about, and work on daily, is how best to keep our residents safe and well. It’s no secret that there is great concern about violent crime in Durham. At the same time, there is concern about the history of policing in our country and its impact on people of color. Right now, Durham has an opportunity to lead the way and find new, equitable, and innovative approaches to keep our community safe and well.
The creation of this department reflects our belief that responding to the safety and wellness needs of all of our residents requires more than police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. Our first responders remain absolutely necessary and crucial to our public safety services moving forward. We still need policing to help protect our community.
But, it’s unfair to expect them to address every single issue our residents experience. For example, to expect that - on top of everything they must do - they address mental and behavioral health needs or connect residents to social services to help them through a crisis. I’d like to note that many of our officers also support exploring other ways to address 911 calls that don’t need an officer response.
Meeting these sorts of diverse needs requires that we broaden our imagination of what public safety and first responders look like in Durham. I believe, as does the City Council, that creating this department is an important first step in that journey.”