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Civil rights complaints lodged against Graham Police Department
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Civil rights complaints lodged against Graham Police Department

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Graham Smith Protest (copy)

Almost 100 people gathered in downtown Graham on Saturday to express their concern about the hiring of Douglas Strader by the Graham Police Department.

A controversial hire by Graham police has resulted in a pair of civil rights complaints lodged against the department.

The Rev. Curtis Gatewood, the founder of the Stop Killing Us Solutions Campaign run by an Alamance County-based nonprofit, this week filed complaints with state Attorney General Josh Stein and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. The complaints called on them to investigate the hiring of Doug Strader by Graham police.

Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden’s nominee for attorney general, vowed during his confirmation hearing to prioritize civil rights, combat extremist attacks and ensure the Justice Department remains politically independent.

Gatewood’s complaint noted his belief that hiring Strader puts members of the community in danger.

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While a member of the Greensboro Police Department, Strader was one of the officers involved in a 2018 incident in which a man died while under police custody. A controversial restraining method is alleged to have contributed to his death. In September, Greensboro officials formally terminated Strader for having fired his weapon at a car fleeing the scene of a crime at the corner of South Elm and Washington Streets. Graham police Chief Kristi Coles hired Strader in March.

Gatewood said there is a history of abuses perpetrated by reprimanded officers. He hopes that if his letter does catch the eye of state or national investigators they will look into other aspects of the department as well.

“Since this occurred, it makes our organization suspicious that isn’t the first time this has happened,” Gatewood said. “If there has been additional hiring of such officers, we’re asking that all officers be terminated, removed. We do not believe (Graham’s) Police Department will do that on their own.”

In response to community concerns, a statement from the Graham police previously said that Strader passed background checks that were based on strict guidelines. The chief could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.

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