The Durham City Council voted today to approve an investigation of the police department’s conduct in the lacrosse case. The chairman will be former state Supreme Court justice and state legislator Willis Whichard, a widely respected figure in the state. Four police chiefs will also serve. Three of the police chiefs are white males; the fourth is a black female.*
The Council members will choose the remaining seven members according to a quota system: two white females, two black men, and three black women. The two Council members most skeptical about the inquiry—Thomas Stith and Diane Catotti—celebrated this development. Said Stith, “We need to strive for diversity, but we’re not [eliminating] anyone from serving.” But, of course, the panel makeup automatically prevents any Council member from choosing a white male.
The only Council member to have outright opposed the inquiry, Catotti, appears to have adopted a goal of trying to undermine the investigation from within: she said she would choose a figure from a rape crisis center—the type of organization that was publicly posting Wendy Murphy analysis of the case in January.
The choices of the other five Council members thus become critical: hopefully, they will exercise their task responsibly, unlike Catotti, and refrain from choosing people with preconceived notions on the case.
*--added for clarity