Town Hall meeting discussing race and policing to be held this Sunday

by Sammy Hanf

The Community City Working Group, started over a year ago byReverend Nelson Johnson and Mayor Nancy Vaughan, will be hosting a meeting Sundayto foster discussion on policing practices.

The meeting will take place from 3-6 p.m. on June 12 in TheHoward Chubs Enrichment Center of Providence Baptist Church at 1106 TuscaloosaStreet, Greensboro.

Lewis Pitts, a member of the CCWG, said that this meeting isa culmination of a series of smaller gatherings across Greensboro’s five councildistricts.

The CCWG then sat down with small groups and took notes onthe people’s concerns regarding transparency in policing.

Irving Allen, an organizer at Beloved Community Center, saidthe meeting provides a larger venue to raise those concerns.

“I think that there’s always been some form ofconversation around policing here in Greensboro and really throughout thecountry, but I think that this is a really good opportunity to bring togetherfolks who are having those conversations maybe in different arenas,” Allensaid.

Pitts said the meeting is meant to address the issue ofpolicing and race but hopes that it will get people to consider their role ascitizens in a democratic society. Of the issues raised in the district meetingsconcerns about police body cameras and training were pervasive.

Pitts said that failing to provide public access to bodycamera footage undermines the transparency they were supposed to provide.

“When the police started wearing the cameras it was toenhance transparency and public legitimacy and then they immediately starthiding them under the pretext that it was confidential inside an officer’spersonnel file and the public couldn’t know it,” Pitts said.

Sallie Hayes-Williams, a member of the CCWG, said thattraining is pivotal to improving relationships with the police and that more pressureneeds to be applied to have the police consider and address citizen’s concerns.

“When you come in contact with another citizen remember thatcitizen is paying for you to be there, paying for you to protect and servethem.” Hayes-Williams said. “I think we need to put more emphasis on the servepart and less on the protect”

Crishanna Rodgers said that she would like to see more focuson educating police officers, more like the way college students are taught.

Charles Coates said that he was concerned about the emphasison colorblindness, which he feels is dangerous and disingenuous.

Reverend Johnson said that he frames the issue of policeabuse as a cultural one

“Police chiefs come, police chiefs go, the cultureremains.” Johnson said. “Mayors come, mayors go, the culture remains. Citymanagers come, city managers go, but the culture itself is a way of life thatactually perpetuates itself, it’s bigger than any individual.”

Reverend Johnson said that while contentious issues may bediscussed at the meeting he hopes to foster respect and openness for all pointsof view.

“The town hall meeting is first of all an attempt to engagea broad slice of the community to come together…” Johnson said. “This is notabout cursing out somebody, it’s not about slamming somebody it’s about tellingthe truth and when you tell the truth, the truth has its own power.”