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Both sides of the thin blue line

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The details of an ugly scandal inside the Greensboro Police Department continue to emerge. Audiotapes of disturbing conversations between former chief David Wray and his deputy Randall Brady and a lawsuit by Nicole Pettiford alleging that she was held by GPD officers for six hours against her will in a Greensboro hotel room did little to bolster the city’s confidence in their thin blue line.

Meanwhile, down the road in Winston-Salem, a 17-year veteran of the police force took a fatal bullet while trying to quell a street fight that spilled out of a bar.

It’s a good time, we think, to ruminate on the nature of police work and the role that officers play in our communities.

It’s a big job. There are days of traffic tickets and noise complaints; and then there are days of armed robberies and domestic disputes. Most police officers will never fire their weapons in the line of duty.

But some of them do.

The job attracts all kinds. Some are drawn by the uniform and the gun; some crave the privilege and power; a good number are driven by the desire to fight bad guys and make their communities better places to live.

And all of them, presumably, are willing to put their lives on the line when they don the uniform and take their positions on the line of defense – even the ones who go astray.

In November 2005 Randall Brady filed for retirement amid the fracas in the GPD that put him in the sights of the State Bureau of Investigation. Since then it has been established that Brady secured a “black book” containing photos of black Greensboro police officers in the trunk of his car during an investigation by Risk Management Associates, that he performed poorly on a lie detector test administered by RMA, that he conspired with Detective Scott Sanders to create problems for a troublesome neighbor of then-Chief David Wray.

There’s more.

In the department’s zeal to nail Lt. James Hinson, Brady said he would “sacrifice a homicide to get Hinson.” He suppressed exculpatory information about Lt. Hinson and even had a hand in forging a document regarding interdepartmental disciplinary action.

These things do not speak well for Randall Brady, and the city of Greensboro requested that he be declared ineligible for supplemental police benefits. Brady sued the city for these benefits in February and won his case. The city council may fight the ruling.

Nevertheless, it must be taken into account that Brady served with the GPD for 30 years, and his misdeeds must be measured against the years on the job and the pact he made with the city, one in which he followed the letter, if not the spirit, of the agreement.

Randall Brady will never have a street named after him or a statue declared in his honor. But for his 30 years of service, he should not be denied his benefits.

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