Community members gathered at the final public comment
meeting for police chief input, bringing up issues of race, transparency and an
increased participation in the hiring process.

More than 60 community members gathered at the final public
comment meeting at Shiloh Baptist Church in Greensboro on Monday evening to
voice their opinions on what kind of person they want as the city’s next police

The current police chief, Wayne Scott, announced his
retirement in August. His last day on the job will be Jan. 31, 2020.

The meeting took place in the evening after several in the
community pointed out that two of the past input meetings, which took place on
weekday afternoons, proved to be prohibitive for those who work during the day.
A predominantly black crowd, made up of more than 60 residents, attended the
final meeting. Speakers demanded transparency, participation in the process and
fair treatment of all residents regardless of race, gender or class.

Greensboro Police Chief Wayne Scott last day will be on Jan. 31, 2020. JERRY WOLFORD / Perfecta Visuals

“It is your night tonight, it is your opportunity to have
your voice heard,” said Councilwoman Sharon Hightower, who facilitated the
meeting, along with Assistant City Manager Trey Davis. “Because that is what we
need to be more about. More inclusive, have more engagement as it relates to
how we want our city to look.”

 “What we want here is
what’s best for all of Greensboro,” said the Rev. Steve Allen of Shiloh Baptist
Church at the beginning of the meeting. “We want a police chief for the whole
city…. Let’s share the good ideas of what the person should look like…. We want
to make sure that whoever is coming will be one who can police the entire

Two employees from Developmental Associates, a consulting
company based in Chapel Hill hired to help gather data and make recommendations
on the next police chief, attended the meeting to help guide the discussion.
Developmental Associates senior consultant Pat Bazemore previously served as
Cary’s police chief while Rodney Monroe served as chief for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Police Department before retiring in 2015. In addition to the public meetings,
Developmental Associates has been gathering responses from an online survey where
community members who couldn’t attend meetings could give their input. As of
Monday afternoon, the company said that they had received 258 responses from
citizens and 132 responses from police staff.

Before the crowd began to answer questions from Bazemore and
Monroe, the question of whether or not Developmental Associates was involved
with the hiring of chief Wayne Scott was raised by two speakers.

“Let me just say that Developmental Associates was a part of
the last process,” said Bazemore after Hightower prematurely responded that
they hadn’t been. “Neither one of us were working for the company at that time.
We presented the top three candidates to the city and the city made the
determination who they were going to hire.”

Several speakers expressed concerns about what they perceived
was a lack of transparency and community involvement when Scott was selected as
police chief.

“I am very concerned as it relates to the consultants that
we’ve used to handle navigating the process and select the right police,” said the
Rev. Cardes Brown.

Brown recalled how in 2015, he was a part of a group of
other black pastors and leaders in the city who denounced the decision to
appoint Wayne Scott whom the city chose over Danielle Outlaw, then the deputy
chief in Oakland, Calif. and now the chief in Portland, Ore as the new police

“I don’t want this to be an exercise in futility,” Brown said.

“We need to know that what you’re going to recommend is not going to be something to just appease the crowd for a little while and let them go on about business as usual. So it has to be a legitimate process. If you’re gonna be our consultants, I think not only should you confer with the people that will make the decision but, don’t railroad us through a process here without coming back and talking to us about where you’re going.”

Bazemore responded by saying that while Developmental
Associates helps facilitate the hiring process, that the ultimate decision lies
with the city, namely the city manager.

Councilwoman Michelle Kennedy backed Brown’s sentiments and
brought up her own issues with the process used the last time a new chief was

“When we hired our last police chief… I can remember a day
they called a lot of us to the Greensboro Coliseum,” Kennedy said. “And there
were probably about 80 us maybe… to speak with the final two candidates. And it
was really striking at the end of that meeting the consensus that was built in
that room and the consensus in the room that day was that we all felt strongly
about one of those candidates; the other candidate became our police chief.

“Holding a series of meetings about this if once we get down
to a final six…or final whatever, if the community is then left out of that
process, we still end up with something that’s unacceptable,” she added.

To ensure a more transparent and participatory process this time around, several activists came prepared with a four-page letter, with more than 90 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon, outlining specific demands for the next police chief as well as demands for city council, county commission and others. The letter suggests a process that allows the public to watch finalists’ interviews, provides a public forum hosted by a private entity where the public can directly interview the finalists as well as data and records from candidates’ prior police work to be shared publicly.

Guilford County School Board member Byron Gladden suggested
that the city council pass a motion that council votes on the police chief
rather than letting the city manager decide.

Hightower dismissed the idea, saying it would belabor the

In addition to concerns about the transparency of the
process, many speakers brought up the issue of race and class when it comes to
policing in the city.

Rev. Bradley Hunt brought up a 2015 New York Times article
which found that black drivers in Greensboro were disproportionately stopped by
police while driving. Zalonda Woods, an advocate for the homeless, made the
case to hire someone who has a background in race relations.

“I think that the issue at hand for the current
administration in relation to its citizens would be race relations,” Woods
said. “The fact that race is not addressed in this city and it is showing up within
department as well as outside the department…The biggest we problem we face is

Immigrants and refugees said the next police chief needs to
understand the diverse communities that live in the city.

“There needs to be understanding of humanities involved,” said Don Lam, a member of the Cambodian community.

“We need someone who… understands our history and can empathize with our communities, interact with our communities with true cultural competency.”

One of the other major asks from the crowd came in the form
of a citizen review board equipped with subpoena power to ensure accountability
within the police force. The decision to create such a board rests in the hands
of the city council.

“I do support it and I always have,” said Hightower in an
interview. “It is something that I think while we may not use it, but it should
be available if there is reason to do so. That kind of to me, makes it a fair approach.”
When asked if she would vote on a motion to create an independent review board,
Hightower said that she would. Councilwoman Kennedy said she also supports the
idea of an independent review board.

“I have been in support of that since my days on [Police Community Review Board],” Kennedy said in a text message to Triad City Beat. “I’d like to see those policies be as broad as NC state law allows.”

Several speakers mentioned the fact that Chief Wayne Scott
is retiring rather than being fired, after Marcus Deon Smith died after being hogtied
by members of the GPD last year. The police officers involved with the case are
still currently employed by the police department and have not faced any
disciplinary action or criminal charges.

“You can do all the training in the world but if there isn’t
disciplinary action, then nothing ever changes,” said the Rev. Sadie Lansdale,
who spoke about the current chain of authority in which the city council has
authority over the city manager, who in turn hires and fires the police chief.

“That sounds like a ridiculous chain of authority that we’re
hearing,” Lansdale said. “And it sounds like it is designed to give us the run-around.
So, you can understand why the community does not have trust in this process.
The only thing that will change anything is if there is a citizen review board
with subpoena and disciplinary power which can ensure that when officers do
wrong… they are punished and fired. If that doesn’t happen, nothing’s gonna
change and we’ll be right back here in a year.”

Davis said that the city hasn’t advertised the position yet,
but hopes to attract applicants over the course of the next month or so, with
the goal of selecting a new police chief by Jan. 1. Several speakers urged the
city to look for candidates outside the department for the next chief.

“A lot of us feel like the good folks in the police
department in Greensboro have been kicked out,” community activist Marcus Hyde
said. “So, we need to have a broad look across the country to find someone who
can actually articulate something that is bolder, that is more just.”

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