Durham council member wants second look into officers’ histories

(CBS North Carolina)

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — A Durham City Council member is now questioning why officers involved in a deadly shooting last month were even working for the city’s police department.

Jillian Johnson wants the police chief to review some old cases and complaints about the officer who shot and killed 34-year-old Frank Clark. Clark’s family and others in the community claim they have had issues with master officer Charles Barkley, the officer identified by investigators as firing the fatal shot.

The department suspended Barkley in 2014. Monte Southerland, one of the two other officers involved in the Nov. 22 encounter with Clark, served a suspension in March 2016. The reasons for those suspensions are not public.

Council member Johnson sent an email in early December to city manager Tom Bonfield, to discuss complaints she received about the officers.

“I’m struggling to understand why these officers were still employed by the Durham Police Department,” she wrote.

“Can you give us an update on your plans regarding the community’s demands to see the disciplinary records of these officers?”

Johnson also said she was scared due to her certainty that there are other Durham officers with similar histories working for the department. She told Bonfield she thought it would be a good idea for Chief C.J. Davis to review some of the old cases.

“I understand there may be legal implications to reviewing prior employment actions, but frankly I’d rather settle some lawsuits than have another person killed by our police department,” she wrote.

Council member Steve Schewel and Charlie Reece followed Johnson’s email with messages of their own. Reece said he shared the concerns about the police involved in the shooting of Clark at McDougald Terrace, and how the officers acquired their reputation with the people who live in that community.

The city manager replied that “The concerns being raised by some members of the community have not gone unnoticed by the city and police administration.”

Bonfield told the council members he planned to meet with the city attorney and Davis to discuss the matters further. A city spokesperson said the meeting happened Dec. 9, but did not release additional details.

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