Greensboro moving closer to selection of next police chief

by Ben Holder

The City of Greensboro announced this week the planning of a “series of conversations on the topic of police and community relations.” The meetings are set to take place next month. “In Greensboro, we pride ourselves on giving our residents a voice and opportunity to be heard on important issues,” Mayor Nancy Vaughan said in a press release. “I have heard the concerns expressed by our residents and I want to be certain that, as City leaders, we are taking the time to shed light on those issues. Through these conversations, I’m hopeful we will find additional ways to work together as a City, police department and community, to continue to build trust and resolve fears.”Vaughan recently took part in the US Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, DC and discussed community and police relations with other elected officials from across the country. Greensboro Mayor Pro Temp Yvonne Johnson was also quoted in the press release. “These meetings are a perfect opportunity for residents and representatives of the police department to talk, listen to each other, and discuss solutions for ways to strengthen our community as a whole. Sometimes listening to each other’s problems, better understanding our differing points of view, and working together to make improvements is the first step in trusting one another,” Johnson said.The series of conversations will undoubtedly cover the topic of finding a new Chief of Police. According to city officials, the City of Greensboro is less than a month away from hiring a new Chief of Police. The position became available after former Police Chief Ken Miller left the city in August 2014 to pursue another job. Assistant Chief Anita Holder was then named Interim Chief. She took office on Sept. 1. Less than a month after Holder was named Interim Chief, the city hired Development Associates, LLC to search for possible candidates. The city was unable to reveal how much Development Services has been paid thus far.City of Greensboro Communications Manager, Donnie Turlington, was able to tell YES! Weekly today that 44 applications have been received and the process of selecting finalists is underway. Sources close to this story have reported that at least a half a dozen current high-ranking officers in the Greensboro Police Department have applied.So far, only two candidates have admitted they have applied for the job. Col. Randy Powers, who is the Chief Deputy of the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, was identified as an applicant in December. The public became aware of his intentions to lead the Greensboro Police Department when he received a Facebook endorsement last month from Guilford County Sherriff B.J. Barnes. Powers is a long shot for the job and is considered to be an extension of the Sherriff’s Department. The idea of combining the Police Department and the Sheriff’s Department has been brought up before and it has proven to be a polarizing topic.The only other applicant that identified themselves is Greensboro Deputy Chief Wayne Scott. Deputy Chief Scott responded to YES! Weekly today via text confirming his application for the position of Chief of Police. Deputy Chief Scott is currently in charge of the Investigations Bureau. Prior to his promotion as Deputy Chief, he worked as the Commanding Officer of the Police Training Division. According to information on the City of Greensboro’s website, Scott’s career includes, “tours of duty in Patrol, Community Resources, Crash Reconstruction, Traffic Safety, Police Training, and as commander of the Patrol Bureau. “The most intriguing candidate for the job is Greensboro Deputy Police Chief James Hinson. Hinson allegedly applied for the position. He is currently the Patrol Bureau Commander. Hinson refused to acknowledge YES! Weekly’s request regarding his candidacy for the position. His career has included serving as the Watch Commander, Commanding Officer of Eastern Division, Operational Support, and Executive Officer of the Special Operations Division in District I, III. Hinson has also been named Officer of the Year.Hinson’s career has also included him being a very large part of arguably the most problematic time period Greensboro leaders have faced in decades. On June 3, 2005, after finding a tracker on his police car, Hinson claimed he was being targeted because of his race. Less than two months prior to finding the tracker, DEA Officers contacted the Greensboro Police because they had found Hinson’s personal cell phone number saved in the phone of an arrested drug dealer. This was the second time Hinson’s number was found in possession of drug dealers. Jerry Bledsoe wrote a series of articles that revealed Hinson’s associations and romantic relationships with drug dealers, drug couriers, strippers and prostitutes. The series was titled “Cops in Black and White” and was published by the Rhino Times. James Hinson, who at the time was a lieutenant, accused former Greensboro Police Chief David Wray, along with several others, of discrimination. The accusations of racism led to several lawsuits, the resignation of command staff members and ultimately the firing of former City Manager Mitch Johnson. After several investigations executed by outside agencies and the GPD, none of the people Hinson accused of racism or discrimination was ever found guilty of anything.Hinson initially filed his lawsuit against the city and several others in May 2008. In 2009, Hinson appeared on WFMY News 2 and announced he dropped his lawsuit. “I will treat today’s actions as a peace offering to the city of Greensboro, providing an opportunity to resolve the issues in this case without the cost, inconvenience and further polarization that comes with continued litigation,” Hinson said.However, Hinson refiled his lawsuit in 2010 and finally settled with the city for $25,000 in 2014.