by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

Items from across the Triad and beyond

New Greensboro police chief pledges community first

Greensboro police Chief Ken Miller, who was sworn in on Sept. 1, said discipline will be his top priority. He plans to meet this week with commanders to discuss the subject.

Without having the benefit of an inside perspective, Miller said in an interview last week that he would like to amend department directives to allow officers under investigation for misconduct to request a hearing sooner and be heard before a disposition is rendered. While the new chief said he believes the disciplinary system ensures due process, “what it looks like to me is that if I’m an employee, you’ve just made a decision about my discipline… without ever hearing from me.”

One of Miller’s focuses will be to improve the department’s esprit de corps by giving employees a greater stake in their work.

“When you look at surveys around job satisfaction, money is never at the top of the list,” he said. “Satisfaction comes when somebody is engaged in their work. I am going to try to create an environment here — and I’m not suggesting that previous chiefs didn’t do this — where we can let these people in this department have some say over their work environment so that they have an ownership stake.”

While recognizing current budget constraints, Miller said the department needs a “public information strategy,” and he would like to explore the possibility of hiring of a non-sworn employee accessible to regularly provide information to the news media.

“You’ve got to get to get good information out fast,” the chief said. “You’ve got to get bad information out faster. Otherwise, it looks like you’ve got something to hide.”

For example, Miller said when he was employed with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, command leadership determined that the Tasing of a citizen had been improperly handled. The department obtained a waiver from the officer involved in the incident so that it could legally release information, and ended up changing some training protocols as a result.

Miller said he would like to have an independent market survey conducted to gauge citizens’ trust in the department. If the department finds that a high number of citizens distrust the department based on interactions with officers, the department will address the problems identified, the chief said. If perceptions of distrust appeared to be largely a consequence of citi zens’

exposure to media reports, the department would tend to discount that.

“I do want people to be confident that we’re in control of ourselves and we’re managing ourselves, so we can best position ourselves to be a high-integrity organization,” the chief said. He later added, “My priority is community first, department second, officers third, myself last.” — JG

Nonprofit sues city of Greensboro over alcohol and drug recovery house

Oxford House, a Maryland-based nonprofit whose purpose is to assist people recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction through residential treatment, has filed suit in the federal courts against the city of Greensboro.

The nonprofit operates 16 residential treatment houses in Greensboro, according to its complaint. The lawsuit arises from the exhaustion of administrative remedies in a dispute about one of houses, at Fountain Place, that is the residence of seven women in recovery.

Oxford House contends that the city’s conduct has a disparate impact or effect on the housing opportunities of its clients, whom the lawsuit defines as “persons with a disability,” and the city is violating the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act by not allowing the nonprofit to operate the house.

A memo to council members from City Manager Rashad Young indicates that Oxford House has also filed a fair housing complaint against the city with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The city denies allegations that its conduct violates federal law. — JG

Winston-Salem police chief touts another drop in crime rates

Winston-Salem police Chief Scott Cunningham announced a 14.5 percent decrease in violent crimes in the city since Jan. 1 as compared to the same period last year during a Sept. 1 press conference. Cunningham also announced that property crimes are down nearly 3 percent and total crimes in the city have dropped 1 percent as compared to last year. This decrease comes on top of an 8 percent drop in total crimes from 2008.

Cunningham attributed the drop in crime rates, in part, to the department’s crime reduction task force. Composed of 25 new officers funded by a federal grant, the task force has focused its efforts on two areas of the city — the North Liberty Street/Cleveland Homes area and the Waughtown/Sprague Street area.

“What we’re trying to do is break the back of crime in these areas,” Cunningham said. “It’s working but we have a lot more to do before we can make it a permanent solution.”

The task force went into effect July 9. Since that time, officers have made more than 630 arrests; issued more than 2,000 charges, including 61 felonies; and seized more than $26,000 in contraband, property and weapons.

Cunningham also touted the success of the partnership between the police department and the Winston-Salem Dash minor-league baseball team. This year, Winston-Salem police have used $60,000 in asset forfeiture funds to sponsor six home games and distribute 1,000 tickets to area families and community organizations. Cunningham said the focus of the program has been education, community outreach and crime prevention, and the message has gone out to more than 300,000 people over the course of the season. — KTB