Who’s playing the race card?

by Jordan Green

It was inevitable that the Buracker report — an exhaustive review of the policies, procedures and performance measures of the Greensboro Police Department — would be read as a verdict on the changing of the guard that took place in January 2006. With the former Chief David Wray’s supporters still loudly pressing their protagonist’s case, sharp concerns being voiced by at-large Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw and The Rhinoceros Times about allegations concerning an sexual assault by police officers against a female colleague and unwarranted hysteria about gang activity, hopes ran high in some quarters that the report would serve a rebuke to the current administration of Chief Tim Bellamy.

Virginia consultant Carroll Buracker’s proclamation that, to the contrary, the consultants were “favorably impressed with the commitment, honesty and attitudes of sworn and non-sworn members of the Greensboro Police Department” must have come as a bitter disappointment. Buracker referred to the controversy surrounding Wray — who resigned amid allegations of racially disparate treatment of officers, misleading his boss and allowing a secretive investigative unit to conduct an unending corruption witch-hunt against black officers — only elliptically as “unpleasant events.” And yet Buracker seems to pointedly endorse Bellamy, Wray’s successor, in finding after finding. To wit: • “The 2007 data indicate that the department cleared a higher percentage of violent crimes that previous years.” • “It has been reported that up until the present police administration, the GPD’s employee grievance process could best be characterized as adversarial.” • “In the judgment of the study team, at least 99 percent of the employees in the Greensboro Police Department, including the current police chief and executive staff, had nothing to do with the prior activities by a few employees that resulted in recent negative publicity. Accordingly,

these dedicated and very talented employees deserve the highest respect and support of the residents, business and other stakeholders in Greensboro.” Writer Jerry Bledsoe, The Rhinoceros Times and a Greek chorus of local bloggers have openly pursued a goal of overturning the official narrative surrounding the Wray affair by proving that indeed, as the former chief suspected, there is a cadre of black officers engaged in corrupt activities, incompetent blacks are being promoted to positions to which they are not qualified and blacks are shaking down the city through false discrimination claims. It doesn’t matter that events continue to unfold in contradiction to their thesis. First, an independent consulting group called Risk Management Associates, staffed by retired law-enforcement professionals, spotlighted improper investigative procedures, bias and professional jealousy by white detectives with a carte blanche to pursue their black colleagues, and “management failures” under Wray. Then the State Bureau of Investigation launched a criminal probe not of the black officers hounded for alleged corruption but of their pursuer, Detective Scott Sanders and his commander, Sgt. Tom Fox, who were subsequently indicted. And finally, a second independent consultant reviewed procedures under the reform regime and found the department to be an effective crime-fighting force whose officers for the most part demonstrate a high degree of professionalism. Every new instance of an outside group validating City Manager Mitchell Johnson’s handling of the Wray affair seems only to confirm for the former chief’s supporters’ beliefs how pervasive and malignant the conspiracy is. The self-styled group of conservative bloggers intent on restoring Wray’s honor and getting rid of Johnson find themselves in the curious position of having to attack the reputation of local law enforcement to build their case. What happened to the conservative doctrine of respect for civil authority and upholding law and order? Is The Rhinoceros Times the new Copwatch?

Pityanyone perceived as contradicting the thesis of the so-called“conservatives.” No sooner does someone question their logic than thefaction levels accusations of playing the “race card,” even as theyendlessly reference a revered document called “Cops In Black andWhite.” Make no mistake: Race underscores the entirecontroversy and at least correlates with the loyalties and sympathiesof most of the partisans in this bitter struggle even while therank-and file of all races show all indications of putting aside raceto effectively carry out their duties. Let us review theplayers: Among the departed members of the Wray circle are Wrayhimself, Deputy Chief Randall Brady, Sgt. Tom Fox and Detective ScottSanders — all white. Among those investigated by Sanders and still inthe employ of the department are Lt. Brian James, Lt. James Hinson andOfficer Julius Fulmore — all black. The current chief, Tim Bellamy, isblack. As are three officers accused of sexually assaulting a femaleofficer (two have been recommended for termination). The gang membersthought to be causing mayhem across the city are perceived to be blackand Latino. Transgressions large and small are greeted withhowls of outrage from the so-called conservative pack, but when a whitepolice officer, WM Symmes, killed a black subject, Emile BaptistWilliams in January, the incident is met with silence if not approval. Itcan’t just be a fluke of circumstance that the law enforcement agentsconstantly accused of corruption and incompetence happen to be black.We’ve seen once before in North Carolina — in Wilmingtonca. 1898, to be specific — what happens when a concerted campaign iswaged to undermine confidence in black civil administration byinflaming the prejudices of the white majority. It isn’t pretty.

To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at