Pictured: Rolanda Byrd, the mother of Akiel Denkins, and Judy Mojarrad, the mother of Soheil Antonio Mojarrad, stand together outside of Raleigh City Council. Photo credit: Leigh Tauss | INDY Week
Starting September 18, Raleigh voters will head to the polls to vote for mayor and city council members. In this important election, justice is on the ballot. Our elected officials have the power to change the way our communities are policed, and their decisions can help stem racist police practices and end police violence.
Raleigh community members have spent years calling for more transparency, oversight, and accountability for our police department following a string of incidents of police misconduct, particularly against people of color.
In 2016, a Raleigh police officer shot and killed Akiel Denkins, a 24-year-old Black father of two, in Southeast Raleigh. In April of this year, Soheil Antonio Mojarrad, a man of color who suffered from a traumatic brain injury, was killed by a Raleigh police officer with eight gunshots, including several in his back. And last month a Raleigh police officer drew his gun and handcuffed Kazeem Oyeneyin, a 31-year-old Black man, in his own home after the home security alarm was accidentally triggered. In all of these instances, officer-worn body cameras were not used and there have been no consequences for the officers involved.
Despite the pleas of community members, city officials have not taken significant steps to prevent such tragedies from happening again or to hold police officers accountable when they violate people’s rights.
This election will help shape the future of police accountability in Raleigh, and voters should know where the candidates stand. Along with our partners Raleigh P.A.C.T., Carolina Justice Policy Center, El Pueblo, and North Carolina Asian Americans Together, we are working to educate voters about the candidates’ positions on issues concerning police accountability, community safety, and justice.
We asked every candidate for mayor and city council the below questions to learn where they stand on these issues and to show them that these issues are important to Raleigh voters. Check out our candidate scorecard and read the full candidate responses at the bottom of this page.
- Do you support the creation of a Community Oversight Board that has the power to investigate, subpoena, and discipline police officers when there is injustice? Raleigh urgently needs police reforms, starting with an independent community review board that has the power to hold officers accountable when they brutalize residents and violate their rights.
- Are you in favor of requiring the Raleigh Police Department to require and enforce the use of consent-to-search forms prior to any search and pat down that is not based on probable cause? For many people, particularly Black and Latinx residents, a routine encounter with a police officer can become a traumatic experience that results in unnecessary, invasive searches. This often happens because the person doesn’t know that they have the right to refuse a consent search of themselves, their vehicle, or their home. RPD has already created a consent-to-search form that states a person’s right to refuse a search, and RPD policy requires that a person sign the form in order to give their consent before a vehicle or property search. However, it currently only requires written consent of an individual “where possible,” and it is unclear whether this policy is effectively enforced.
- Do you support the development and implementation of an effective discipline policy to enforce the existing Raleigh Police Department body-worn camera program? The officer who killed Soheil Antonio Mojarrad failed to turn on his body-worn camera. Raleigh has spent millions of dollars on police body cameras, promising that they would increase transparency & accountability. But body cameras are useless if not turned on, and the policy - which the officer violated - falls short of true accountability. In order to ensure proper use of this technology, the policy should specify additional training and consequences for officers who repeatedly misuse body cameras and improperly handle recordings. Similar policies have been implemented in other cities, including Durham and Charlotte.
- Do you support allocating funds to implement a holster activated body-worn camera system? Another tool for ensuring the consistent use of officer-worn cameras is to use a camera system that automatically turns on when officers draw their weapon from its holster. The body-worn cameras that Raleigh has purchased from a company called WatchGuard apparently do not support this feature and are turned on by the officer clicking a button on the camera.
- Are you in favor of requiring and ensuring funding for de-escalation training for all RPD officers? Do you support establishing consequences for officers who do not attempt to de-escalate prior to any use of force? Every law enforcement encounter has the potential to escalate and become dangerous if not handled properly by the trained law enforcement professional, particularly if the person is experiencing a mental health episode or has a disability. Nationally, police academies spend an average of 58 hours on firearm training but a mere 8 hours on de-escalation or crisis intervention. RPD officers currently receive some de-escalation and communication training. The city should improve and expand this training and there should be consequences for officers who react with violence instead of calm, whose fear or bias provokes irrational and dangerous responses to people in crisis and people of color.
- Do you favor expanding the Raleigh Police Department’s use of citations instead of arrests for certain misdemeanor charges? Wake County’s jail has regularly been overcrowded, and at times as many as 90 percent of the people in the jail are being held without being convicted of any crime. Studies show it can take months or years to recover from the job loss and other damage caused by being incarcerated for just a few days. There are many ways to reduce the harm to the community of jailing people before their day in court. One option is to expand the use of citations in lieu of arrest for certain misdemeanor charges. This policy will not only prevent harmful and unjust incarceration, but it can also reduce jail overcrowding and save time and police department resources.
- Do you support promoting police transparency by requiring that RPD make the pictures, names, and ranks of RPD officers available on the city website? For many folks in neighborhoods that are overpoliced, particularly people of color, it is often difficult to safely ask a police officer to identify themselves with their name and badge number. Providing this information online would increase transparency and empower communities to be able to more easily identify officers in their neighborhood.
Raleigh city officials should work to ensure that all communities are safe and that the Raleigh Police Department’s policies and practices promote justice, fairness, and respect. This election is your chance to be an informed voter: view our scorecard with candidates’ positions on police accountability.
Early voting in Wake County begins on September 18. Election Day is Tuesday, October 8. Check your voter registration, see a sample ballot, and get other voter information at ncvoter.org.
Read the full responses from each candidate below:
- Mary-Ann Baldwin (Read response)
- Zainab Baloch (Read response)
- Charles Francis (Read response)
Note: In an earlier version of this scorecard, mayoral candidate Charles Francis said he supported a community oversight board that has investigatory, subpoena, and disciplinary power over local police. His campaign has since updated his response and clarified that he "supports a civilian review board without subpoena power." The current scorecard reflects that position.
- George Knott (Read response)
- Caroline Sullivan (Read response)
- Justin Sutton (Read response)
City Council At-Large
- James Bledsoe (Read response)
- Jonathan Melton (Read response)
- Portia Rochelle (Read response)
- Carlie Allison Spencer (No response)
- Russ Stephenson (Read response)
- Nicole Stewart (Read response)
City Council District A
City Council District B
City Council District C
- Shelia Alamin-Khashoggi (No response)
- Corey Branch (Read response)
- Wanda Hunter (Read response)
- Ricky Scott (Read response)
City Council District D
- Brittany Bryan (Read response)
- Kay Crowder (Read response)
- Saige Martin (Read response)
- April Parker (No response)
City Council District E
The ACLU is a nonpartisan organization that does not endorse or oppose any candidate for office. The ACLU’s goal is to promote voter education and voter participation.