Uncuffed: the Greensboro Police Department

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I spent a significant amount of time with members of the Greensboro Police Department over the last few weeks… none of it in handcuffs.

The reporting informed this week’s cover story, beginning on page 12. I am grateful for the access afforded me on this piece, which I realize is unusual.

“A lot of chiefs would never, ever let a journalist talk to them like this,” Chief Wayne Scott told me.

It started because I sensed a change in the department, which for so many years had inspired little but cynicism and disappointment in media circles, and because I know we’ve entered a new age of policing in this country, one which the tactics of the last century will not serve so well.

And I recognized that the GPD had released not one but two pieces of body-camera footage, which is two more than most of my friends who are still in journalism got to see in their respective cities around the country.

The most damning of it — the scenes of then-Officer Travis Cole roughing up Dejuan Yourse on his mother’s porch — was shown to the public on the recommendation of the chief himself.

That is… unusual.

Remember I go way back with the GPD, back to the days of David Wray, the Secret Police, the Black Book, the RMA Report, the trial of Scott Sanders and Tom Fox and the firing of City Manager Mitch Johnson.

I had a front-row seat for the fracas, which saw a lot of good people get their reputations tarnished and a lot of bad ones walk away relatively unscathed. It took what was once one of the most innovative departments in the country and exposed the rot beneath the surface. And it threatened to jeopardize the most important policy of any metro PD: Don’t spook the herd.

I did a lot of thinking about the job of police chief while I worked I this story. I could never decide if the chief was being stretched in a thousand different directions or being squeezed from them.

I did realize one thing about the chief’s job: I could never do it. And not just because of my aversion to handcuffs.