Group calls for the removal of city leadershipBy Yasmine Regester / November 3, 2017
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A group of community and faith-based leaders at a press conference at Government Plaza Tuesday called for the removal of City leadership basing their request on a history of mistrust and corruption.
Members of the Community-City Working Group (CCWG) propossed the firing of City Manager Jim Westmoreland, City Attorney Tom Carruthers, and Police Chief Wayne Scott. They say they believe a change in leadership will begin the transformation of the current justice system in place.
“It’s really a call for the community to know we’re not taking this lying down. We’re going to push for accountability and for change at the top. We’re also calling for mobilization and galvanization of the community,” said Rev. Daran Mitchell, member of the CCWG.
The Community City-Working Group is an interracial group of citizens, elected officials, and city board and Human Relations Commission members that was formed in 2014 to come together and discuss issues relevant to the city of Greensboro.
“We (CCWG) have been working directly on this issue now for over two and a half years. Before that, some of us have worked on the police abuse of power and corruption issues for the last 40 years or more, yet we are nowhere near the necessary change that needs to occur,” said Rev. Cardes Brown, a founding member of CCWG, a senior local pastor and President of the Greensboro Branch of the NAACP.
The CCWG delivered a six-page document to City Council members and e-mailed the same document to all the council candidates on October 25. That document contains a follow-up of the recent case of Zared Kinah Jones and three other young men, which according to the report, were abused, stunned with a Taser and arrested by GPD officers.
The complaint stems from a September 2016 incident in downtown Greensboro where Jones said he had been assaulted by a bar bouncer and denied service. Jones’ asserts that the police officers that were on patrol did not help resolve the matter, rather they escalated the situation, which resulted in Jones and his friends being stunned by a Taser and arrested. One of the officers accused in the misconduct is Officer S.A. Alvarez, the same officer accused in the Jose Charles case for excessive use of force.
“This is a serious issue. This isn’t just a Greensboro issue. This is a nationwide issue that crisscrosses the state of North Carolina. We think we must continue to bring attention to it. Speak truth to power and speak truth for those who feel powerless,” Mitchell said.
Signed by 14 members of the CCWG, the open-letter also cited a pattern and practice of abuse of power over the last 25 years, and documented settlements and legal fees paid out by the City because of police misconduct. The group says that paying out of millions of dollars in settlements and legal fee money has not solved the problem, but rather complicated and prolonged it.
The letter goes on to pose nine questions to sitting council members and candidates running for office about police accountability, police body cam footage, officer training and procedures that provide oversight of the police department. The group say they have also brought their grievances to Gov. Roy Cooper and the State legislature.
The group is also asking the community to take action through their vote in this year’s election in November.
“We believe that those persons in office have the power and ability to change a corrupt system, but they have chosen not to do so, so we’re calling for folks to be present in this election. We believe we have candidates that can start to initiate change and we just want to awaken the conscious of this community,” said Rev. Bradley Hunt, a CCWG member and NAACP Greensboro branch vice president.
Statement from the GPD in response to the community reads:
“The men and women of the Police Department aim to treat all residents with dignity and respect as we work together to make our city a safer place to live. We remain committed to working with residents to address their concerns about any and all issues in our community; and, have many existing methods and forums to do this in a mutually beneficial manner.”
Calls made to the city manager and city attorney were not returned.