High Point holds dialogue with police officers

by Daniel Schere

High Point citizens and community leaders gathered Wednesday night in the Williams Memorial CME Church to discuss police-community relations in the wake of several young people’s deaths. Among the topics discussed were traffic stops, police diversity training and instructions on how to act when arrested.

The discussion was facilitated by Chief Marty Sumner. He spent a good deal of time explaining the types of rights citizens have when they are detained under the “reasonable suspicion” doctrine””the lowest standard of proof for a crime.

Sumner said officers are only required to read Miranda rights to people being detained for specific actions they are accused of. He encouraged those in attendance to cooperate with officers even if they are being falsely accused of a crime, and file a complaint after the fact.

“You don’t know what the officer knows,” Sumner said. “See if you can help him out. You guys are our eyes and our ears first and foremost.”

Sumner said of all traffic stops conducted through November 2014, 4,940 involved whites and 4,538 involved blacks. The percentages of blacks and whites for High Point are 54 and 33 respectively according to 2010 data from the US Census Bureau.

Resident Frederick Douglas said she was concerned about many young people being misunderstood in their interactions with police, leading to possible altercations.

“Respect is subjective, because when I was raised, I was raised to say yes ma’am, yes sir,” she said. “I have children who do not say yes ma’am, yes sir but they are respectful. By respect being subjective, a police officer can determine whether a person is being respectful.”

Sumner responded to this by emphasizing that ‘­it is usually clear as to whether someone being detained is acting disrespectfully.

“The cases that I’ve seen both on on-car camera and in the schools, it’s very clear the person’s being disrespectful,” he said.

Sumner was also asked about the department’s policy on using deadly force, to which he responded by saying it is used solely for self-defense of the officer in a threatening situation. He warned those in attendance to cooperate with any officer who pulls a gun.

“If a police officer pulls a gun on you, do not do anything but follow his direction,” he said.