Stop ‘Protecting’ Us from the Truth
In the wake of the resignation of former Police Chief David Wray (see story, p. 7) a disturbing phenomenon has been taking place among our city leaders. We’re talking about the position of vagueness that the city council, the city manager and our mayor have taken after this scandal that is the biggest Greensboro has seen since the 1979 massacre.
Yes, they seem to be saying, something terrible has happened. Something far-reaching and God-awful. But don’t worry: we’ve got it covered. The bad man is gone, and never you mind exactly what he did or why he did it. Rest assured we’ve got the problem well in hand. Now go about your business.
Their reaction to media inquiries has been guarded, to say the least, and their unspoken message to their constituents is one of benevolent guardianship combined with Cold War-era information control tactics that are disrespectful to the people and actually works against the civic leaders’ goal of restoring confidence in our police department.
Remember when your uncle died of alcoholism or your cousin came out of the closet or your grandfather went to prison and your parents kept the facts of the case from you? This is kind of like that, only the members of the city council are not our parents and we are not children. And unlike our parents (who probably should have told us the truth about our uncle in the first place), our elected officials do not have the right, or the duty, of protecting us from the truth, however awful it may be.
Like Tom Phillips, Greensboro city councilmen, said: ‘“My constituents have come up to me and said, ‘I know you, and I know you’re going to do what’s right, and I trust that you’ll take of it.’ We stand behind the decisions that our city manager, Mitchell Johnson, has made.’”
The official line is that the independent reports about the GPD cannot be released because: 1) They are part of an ongoing investigation; 2) They are personnel matter and are thusly protected from disclosure by state personnel statute; and 3) The reports reveal matters of police procedure that would compromise the effectiveness of the department if revealed.
But issuing documents like these with the protected parts redacted is a fairly common thing, and it’s a move we strongly suggest our leaders make.
If our police officers have been unfairly treated by the department, we need to know about it. If any of our cops have connections with imprisoned coke dealer Elton Turnbull, well that’s our business too. There is no justification for withholding the truth.
Both Mayor Keith Holliday and Councilwoman Sandy Carmany have hinted that more information may become available in the future. As of press time, a day before the next city council meeting, the matter of the Greensboro Police Department and the departure of Chief Wray is not on the agenda. Maybe after we go to bed they’ll have a little talk about us to decide if we’re mature enough to handle the truth.