You could see democracy in action August 7th at Genesis Baptist Church on Bessemer Avenue.  More than sixty people from various organizations and neighborhoods came out to be a part of the Police Accountability, Community Safety and Healing Initiative and to hear a report to the community by the Interim Citizens’ Police Review Committee. 

The meeting began with two minute “shout outs” or statements identifying the presence and purpose of some of the organizations in attendance.   Organizations attending included: the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Stop Mass Incarceration Network, Beloved Community Center, Creative Youth Resistance Project, Renaissance Community Coop and Unifour One.    Several victims of police misconduct, as well as, former Greensboro Mayor Carol Allen and State Representative Rodney W. Moore from Charlotte was also in attendance.

Rev. Nelson Johnson of the Faith Community Church, Beloved Community Center, and the Police Accountability, Community Safety and Healing Initiative, explained the four purposes of the meeting as to discuss: 1) the problem of police accountability in Greensboro, 2) how to build a statewide movement to change the double standards and corrupt culture, 3) appropriate criteria for a new police chief in Greensboro, and 4) hear the report of the Interim citizens’ Police Review Committee. 

Greensboro has never had a workable civilian oversight process for its police department.  The Greensboro Police Department polices itself and is in charge of dealing with complaints issued about its misconduct.  As a result of this state of affairs the GPD has developed an entrenched set of double standards and corrupt culture.  For details on this state of affairs one need only consult  the document published by the Beloved Community Center last year: Our  Democratic Mission: Transitioning the Greensboro Police Department from Double Standards and Corruption to Accountability and Professionalism.[1]   The recent shooting of Chieu Di Vo and the  recent harassment of the Scales Brothers for merely walking down the street in their own neighborhood are current illustrations of this deep seated problem that must be address by the an aware community.[2]

After a brief discussion of how the two groups -the Police Accountability, Community Safety and Healing Initiative ( PACSHI) and the Interim Citizen’s Police Review Committee  (ICPRC) -came together the meeting moved on to hear a proposal by two guests from Charlotte.  The problem of police misconduct is not confined to Greensboro but is in fact a statewide problem.  Several cities are on the forefront of devising democratic solutions to this problem.  Robert Dawkins and Rep. Rodney W. Moore gave a report on a statewide initiative.  Rep Moore will be introducing a bill in the state legislature to stop the practice of racial profiling and to give cities the power to give citizens police review boards subpoena power.  Along with Greensboro the cities of Charlotte, Durham, and Fayetteville are on the forefront of taking  progressive actions to remedy the problem of police misconduct.  The gathering formally voted to support the proposed legislation to be introduced by Rep Moore and to formally endorse belonging to a statewide coalition to working on police accountability.

The co-chairs of the meeting Joyce Johnson and Wesley Morris move the meeting on to discuss the “Essential Criteria for a new police chief in Greensboro” since the current chief is moving on to Greenville, South Carolina at the end of August.  Mr. Lewis Pitts, recently retired Greensboro Attorney lead this discussion.  According to Mr. Pitts we have got to overcome the prevalent propaganda about the overwhelming force and violence necessary to keep the community safe.  On the contrary, the most important criteria for a new police chief is commitment to the establishment of Civilian Police Review Board with subpoena power.  Our new chief should understand and know about the culture of corruption, dominance and double standards.    The new chief should understand and support the idea that the police are accountable to the people.

The last part of the meeting was the most important because it was devoted to hearing and discussing the report of the Interim Citizens’ Police Review Committee.  Members of the Committee present included : James Mayes, Dr. Kathleen Casey, Derrick Smith , Rev. Randall Keeney and David Allen.  This discussion was led by Co-chair James Mayes.  While the city said we did not have the authority to set up such a body they are wrong.  In our democracy power belongs to the people. So we set about the business of putting the ICPRC together under the legal and constitutional authority of the people of the City of Greensboro.  The committee has been meeting since January and crafted a document that describes an independent and transparent process where the members of the committed are accountable to the community.  The Committee will begin hearing cases in September 2014.  The purpose of the Committee is to review and investigate all complaints regarding police misconduct and issue a ruling.  The Committee is down by one member and hopes to fill the vacancy before it begins its official duties in September.  As a final order of business the people assembled gave an overwhelming vote of approval for the report and work of the Committee. 

 

[1] You can download a copy of this document by going to the Beloved Community Center’s Web site.   [https://www.belovedcommunitycenter.org/transitioning-greensboro/]

[2] Editorial Staff, “A Deathly Silence,” Greensboro News and Record, July 24, 2014.