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There are serious problems with the Durham Police Department

By Monica Chen

I complained about a Sheriff’s Deputy. Then, the Durham Police started harassing me. Then, it got even worse.

First of all, I have had positive experiences with law enforcement in Durham. Friendly and responsive officers who left me feeling safer than before they arrived. Unfortunately in Durham, public safety has been declining since 2013.

And then since 2017, the police have increasingly, actively been disrupting and bullying good residents, peaceful homes and neighborhoods instead of protecting them – protecting us. The police have been on the side of bad people, even coddling them.

I think the actions of the Durham Police are about controlling movement, and breaking the normal rules of engagement, interaction, communication – so that incompetence and corruption would not be exposed. We are not allowed to engage with the Durham Police on our own terms, in normal ways.

So this happened to me in June.

The short version is that I was upset by a Sheriff’s Deputy’s actions with puppies that I had rescued. I called to complain about him, and from there, all hell broke loose.

Within a short while, two Durham PD officers were at my door.

The next day, another loud knock on my door — another police officer. A week later, yet another.

Four police officers within one week – showing up at my house where I live alone to let me know in various ways that they didn’t like what I was doing. That is, raising the alarm about behavior from a member of law enforcement that upset me, daring to speak up for puppies I had rescued, and most important of all to them – stepping out of line.

Those puppies I rescued, I later found out, never made it to the animal shelter.

The shockingly bad behavior from the Durham law enforcement did not stop there.

I also found out Durham residents are not allowed to step inside the police headquarters.

That’s right. Over the course of my emails with the city council and the police chief — who immediately let me know that her officers did nothing wrong – I learned that if you want to file a police report, you are not allowed to go to the newly built headquarters in downtown. You are supposed to wait for an officer to come to your location.

Again, we, Durham residents, are not allowed to directly engage with the Durham Police on our own terms. Our movements are limited to give the police control.  

Separate from the puppies and harassing police officers, I had been meaning to file a police report on something that had been happening to me for some time. I put this off because of the harassment, which added to my stress.

When I went to the police headquarters weeks later, what I saw at there was horrible. It was a dystopian nightmare, just unbelievable.

It was a creepy “1984”-esque police headquarters, devoid of any sign of a working police force.

There were big block letters, painted in rainbow colors like it was elementary school, peering down at visitors and the officers, admonishing them on being good law enforcement.

First, I wasn’t allowed inside. You have to buzz an intercom and say why you were there, and if you say you’re there to file a police report, you are told to wait outside.

So basically anyone who wants to report a crime is made to stand outside the building, feeling very unsafe and insecure, while a police officer is dispatched from wherever they are patrolling.

I had to say several times that I was allowed to come inside the police headquarters. The police chief knew I was coming. After that, I was allowed to come inside. There was one other person waiting, a young woman. The lobby was huge, cavernous. The furniture was modern. It felt like a police station lost in time circa 1965. Always an orange hazy mid-afternoon there.

This police headquarters is a building in which action has no consequences. As if a pen that’s dropped would never reach the ground.

This police headquarters, this police force, is a dystopian nightmare.

Finally, an officer showed up. Sweaty and out of breath, and annoyed that I came to the police headquarters to file a police report. She read my statement that I had prepared and told me to come outside.

Then, standing on the sidewalk outside the police headquarters, I waited for her to log it in her patrol vehicle parked on the other side of the street.

She came back across with the report number. As she handed it to me, we heard gun shots go off in a nearby apartment complex. Tap tap tap tap tap. Rapid pops. I said, “That’s weird….” I couldn’t believe this was happening. She ignored the gun shots. Then she started to minimize my concerns about the police report I had just filed. I had handed her a statement detailing incidents that went back years.

So to recap, this is a police force that harasses you, gaslights you, does not let you inside the headquarters your tax dollars paid for, does not respond to gunshots going off in the vicinity of the police headquarters, minimizes concerns from good residents about their safety and danger and violence, coddles bad people, and has no common sense, normal way of working and in general cares more about controlling and abusing Durham residents than protecting them.

Bullying, harassing, unresponsive, unprofessional. Incompetent and corrupt. That’s the Durham PD.

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