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by Jeff Sykes

Items from across the Triad and beyond

BELEWS STREET GETS RECOGNITION

A delegation of city and state leaders will be on hand Sunday when a historic marker is placed at the roundabout intersection of Third Street and Research Parkway in Winston-Salem. According to a press release, those in attendance will include Mayor Allen Joines; Council Members Vivian Burke and Derwin Montgomery; State Senator Earline Parmon, Wake Forest Innovation Quarter President Eric Tomlinson and former resident Barbara Morris.

The Belews Street neighborhood once sat at the edge of where the Innovation Quarter is currently located. It became one of the more well-known neighborhoods for the city’s African American community during the 1940s and 1950s and thrived with homes and businesses. But efforts toward urban renewal in the late ’50s pushed many of the original residents out in order to make way for the construction of US 52. Along with it went businesses like Othella Beauty Salon, James Dixon Grocery, and Linton Cleaners.

The construction of the highway led to a deep division between the high income and low-income areas of the city. Currently Belews Street extends just a few blocks from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to South Cleveland Avenue in what is left of the neighborhood, on the east side of US 52. West of 52 lies the Innovation Quarter and a large tract of undeveloped land.

POLICE REVIEW CHANGES GO TO CITY COUNCIL

Greensboro’s city council was set this week to review recommended changes to the way complaints against police officers are handled, with a vocal minority of departmental critics only half mollified with the proposals.

Under the plan, a Police Citizen Review Board would replace the current Complaint Review Committee. The new board would be comprised of nine members directly appointed by city council members. It would no longer operate under the guidance of the Human Relations Commission.

City council members got a look at the complete package of proposed changed at a work session on Oct. 16. The full plan was to be considered at the city council meeting on Tuesday.

The city council established a review panel to study ways to improve the Complaint Review Committee, which has handled complaints against police for a number of years. Mayor Nancy Vaughan chaired the enhancement committee, which included Yvonne Johnson, Tony Wilkins and Jamal Fox. Early on, committee members hinted that structural changes needed to be made, while stopping short of promising sweeping new powers demanded by community activists.

The name change alone could go a long way to improving the community’s perceptions. Council members and city staff often heard demands for a “police review board”, despite the existence of the CRC. Many felt that the CRC’s generic name, in addition to the process and jargon heavy way it operated, left many residents feeling as if they lacked a voice.

Direct appointment by council also should make the new Police Citizen Review Board more accountable to the citizens, according to Vaughan.

“These are substantial changes,” Vaughan said. “The council members will appoint the committee members directly and they will run with the council terms. I think we should actually do that will all our boards and commissions.”

Lewis Pitts, a retired civil rights attorney and among the most vocal of those calling for a new police oversight process, said the proposed changed were “a very positive step.”

“Changing the name, we hope, is an indication of the sincere desire to have the police accountable to the citizens, as it should be in a self-governing democracy,” Pitts said.

He also pointed to the increased size of the board, and modifications that will give community perspectives a presence during the training process, as valuable.

“Those all on paper seem like very positive steps forward,” Pitts said. “The biggest caveat is that, like anything in a democracy, this needs to be vetted and discussed with the people.” !

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