Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Conservative, Yes! Republican???

     Is anyone else frustrated?  Confused?  Mad?  My beliefs are pretty basic.  I believe in the United States Constitution.  I believe in God.  I believe in the rights and privileges bestowed upon us by our forefathers that established this country.  I have always believed (and for the most part still do) that 95% of Americans believe in three basic principles; they want to work for a living, they want to obey the laws of the land and they believe in some form of religion or worship.  Not only does that give most folks a lot of common ground to work with, it also leaves plenty of room for individualism, multiculturalism and even healthy dissent.  Whether right or left of center in your political views it should leave plenty of common ground to encourage compromise within our Amendments, General Statutes and local laws.  So how have we come to this place?
     I have been lamenting the fact that extremists have taken over both political parties.  My personal beliefs are grounded right of center; I am a conservative.  Being a "conservative" does not mean I believe everything any particular political party believes or tells me to believe.  There are different levels of agreement.  There are different details in every issue.  Individual beliefs are protected in this country and it's okay to have differing views that are consistent with conservatism though they may be inconsistent with one or two details.  Not every issue is black and white.
     It has been very easy to observe and point out left wing extremists and their views the past 8 years.  In my lifetime I have never seen such a turn to the left in ideology as the Democratic Party  has undergone since 2008.  Yes President Obama has certainly guided them in that direction but he cannot take all of the credit.  His rise to prominence came from a desire for change from the status quo within the Democratic Party and to a certain extent the country.  His campaign message of "hope and change" played into this desire and elevated him over all of his challengers who were seen as "establishment" politicians.  It did not take very long for folks wanting change to realize that his particular brand of "change" was not for them and voted Republicans back into the majority in the Congress in 2010 and 2014.  Democrats that have somewhat liberal views that do not agree with an extremist left wing agenda have been left to sit in silence for fear of being "called out" for daring to disagree with this President.  This also happens in cities like Baltimore and Greensboro where extreme liberal and progressive policies have killed the economy and caused a culture of poverty and government dependence.  The result is voter apathy where local elections (especially those held in odd years) rarely see representative turnouts leaving organized activists to return ineffective progressives to their seats election after election.  Instead of banding together to try and overcome the odds, folks that can have a decided affect by running as moderates or supporting those who would at least consider compromise take the easy way out; they move.  Bye bye property owners.  So long citizen tax base.  Adios businesses and corporations that can provide jobs to large quantities of people with limited education and job skills.
     I worked for the majority of my 29 years as a Greensboro Police Officer in east Greensboro.  My working area was and is a predominately minority population.  Sunday mornings were the most relaxing time to work in this area because most everyone was in church.  Most folks that go to church believe in God or at least some higher being.  Most of the political activists in this section of town in recent years are ministers.  Most ministers I have known in my life believe in God.  Yet at the Democratic Convention in 2012 in Charlotte, five voice votes were taken on whether to include God in their political platform.  After the 5th vote (which I still believe the "nos" prevailed) they declared "the ayes have it".  Are we to believe that the majority of the minority communities in this country that are traditionally registered and vote Democrat and have deep, traditional ties to their religious beliefs are now indoctrinated into left wing extremist beliefs?  I don't; yet they are all shouted down if they dissent one iota from the folks in charge.
    So here we are in 2016.  The Democrats are once again relying on old establishment Hillary to carry their banner forward.  The folks that rebel against establishment politics propelled Bernie Sanders to a competition so fierce the party had to come up with "super delegates" just to insure she would win.  With all the problems facing this country today, one would think the Republicans would have a cakewalk in November; one would think.  
     Donald Trump has won the Republican nomination fair and square.  He won because he is not establishment, says what most folks think when it comes to the economy, defense of our country, taking care of veterans, etc.  He comes with deficiencies and a lack of political polish, no doubt.  He says things that can easily be twisted into political fodder by a national press all to eager to keep the Democrats in power and their extremist supporters in line.  He is not a professional politician.  In other words, he ain't in the club!.
     And now his triumph and popularity has revealed other things.  More citizens turned out to vote in Republican primaries this year than at any other time in history indicating a block of voters once again anxious for change.  He revealed a total dissatisfaction with the status quo and a voting populace that no longer accepts excuses from what they perceive as ineffective Republican Congressmen and Senators.
     Mr. Trump has also revealed this; a Republican establishment so desperate to keep their club going that some of them are not only fighting the nomination but openly supporting Hillary Clinton.  Really?  A corrupt candidate that has the blood of Americans on her hands and shows absolutely no concern or remorse for their deaths, no concern or sympathy for their families is preferable simply so you can keep the club together?  Is there any wonder at all why conservative voters are now questioning allegiance to a political party that seems hell bent on alienating its' members?  Is this not a form of extremism?
     Ronald Reagen used to be a Democrat.  Bush the elder was considered a "moderate" when he originally ran for President.  John McCain was considered a "maverick" for views that did not always jive with old right wing establishment thinking.  Mitt Romney was a moderate.  All have won the Republican nomination and all were considered "inadequate" by the elitist establishment at one time or another, in one way or another.  You would think by now that those stubborn, establishment folks would get it.  Americans want a government that works, accomplishes what they are tasked by election to do and is representative of everyone, not just those with the financial means to win an election.  We don't care about your extremist's or political party differences; just do the job.  
     Left wing extremist policies have not worked at home or abroad the past 8 years.  There are also quite a few Republican establishment policies that have not worked the past several years.  President Reagen disagreed with some of those and successfully navigated Congressional waters to get things done.  Some compromise is good.  Mr. Trump openly disagrees with some establishment policies with regard to the economy, trade and immigration enforcement.  Why can't compromise work again?
     This election is one of the most important in our history.  Many issues vital to the future of our children and our health as a country are in the balance most notably a Supreme Court balance that is crucial.  Conservative and moderate voters have to unite.  It is becoming evident that we cannot depend on the leadership and establishment politicians of the Grand Old Party at this point to bring us together.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Left Wing Extremist Bait and Switch

     During the "comments from the floor" segment of the June 21st Greensboro City Council meeting, a frequent visitor to both the council and this blog approached and requested that "the City Council do something about Marc Ridgill".  Yes, our own favorite communist, anti-police agitator Brian Watkins was in front of Council yet again.  It seems Mr. Watkins is much like the school yard bully; when he has the dominant position he is empowered but punch the bully in the mouth and he complains of unfair treatment.  Poor Brian's complaint (which you can watch on video) is that he is "being targeted by Marc Ridgill because I target police officers".  Who woulda thunk it?  Me, a retired Greensboro Police Officer of 29 years of service and many friends and colleagues that still serve the city in the face of very little support from city government would even dare think about targeting an anti-police agitator who among his many vile practices steals Facebook photos from officers pages so he can write derogatory and disgusting things about them?  Would I even consider targeting a person that lives to hide behind several computer aliases yet refers to officers as "murderers" or "cowards", then cries boo-hoo to the Mayor and blames the police department because he doesn't like me exercising my First Amendment Rights to criticize his use of his First Amendment Rights?  As I stated to Internal Affairs when they called while investigating his complaint on me last month, "if he continues to attack Greensboro Police Officers or any law enforcement for no reason at all I will intensify my efforts to challenge him on every false claim he makes".
     However, if you're reading Brian (and we know that you are) this article is not about you.  The above example is classic left wing political bait and switch.  "I target but he shouldn't be allowed to".  It's the silly political season that has front and center two candidates that will produce water cooler debates for the ages.  It has already started and is already ridiculous.  If you are dyed in the wool Democrat you have already made up your mind that Hillary is the one.  If you are dyed in the wool Republican you have already made up your mind that you will never, ever consider voting for Hillary.  So if you are in the camp of "this is the best we can do?" and you actually pay attention to what goes on in the world you have a dilemma.  If you fall into this category, you are also going to decide this election.  Consider what we have heard in the last week in the media as well as what some of my "dyed in the wool" liberal friends have stated to me.
     "The things I have heard Trump say and the things his supporters say are scary.  He might start a war.  His positions on immigration and accepting Islamic refugees are racist.  If he wins he might put us back into a recession and he might destroy all of our trade agreements.  He isn't even that great of a business man."

     Admittedly there are some unknowns with a candidate that has not served as a politician.  That is a big part of the Trump allure.  Most folks with common sense from both sides of the aisle would agree that we are having trouble properly vetting legal immigrants and given the extraordinary rise in mass shootings since 2008 involving suspects with Islamic affiliations curtailing immigration from parts of the world where terrorists are concentrated would be a smart thing to do.  The position of Mr. Trump not being a great business man is just asinine.  Only four bankruptcy procedures out of over 1100 owned businesses; please.  It is correct to question his thoughts and policies, BUT are his unknowns really any greater than any other first time presidential candidate?  Promises are always made; how often are they kept?
     I don't have to rehash Hillary's record of non-achievement.  She is corrupt and even Democrats will admit that.  She talks about championing women yet has made millions off of countries that demean and torture women as a matter of law.  She takes money from many countries that will kill you for being gay or lesbian.  She even pays the men who work for her more than her female employees.  She has the blood of Americans on her hands and even blatantly lied to the families of those killed.  And when questioned about her responsibility for these Americans by Congress her answer was not one of remorse and sorrow but a very flippant "what difference does it make"?
     So your choice is this; no record as a politician and concerns about what he might do or a record so corrupt and poor that the candidate cannot run on it.  However, besides the candidates themselves it would be wise to consider some other left wing ideals represented by Hillary.  For instance, every time there is a mass shooting we hear from the left wingers "We need MORE gun laws".  Never mind that in 2008-2010 the Democrats had control of everything yet the topic wasn't brought up.  Would Democrat Senators have staged a sit in were this not an election year?  Was this a stunt to deflect attention from their candidates FBI investigations, unlawful e-mails and a bad resume?  Who would enforce these new laws?  Oh yeah, law enforcement.  The very ones you have attacked and denigrated for the past 8 years even to the point of not allowing them to enforce certain laws such as equipment violations.  How many editorials have we read right here in Greensboro criticizing equipment violation stops or impeding traffic stops?  Think the folks in New Jersey/New York appreciate enforcing the "broken windshield" law today?
     How about jumping to conclusions and involving yourself in local law enforcement cases and turning them into Civil Rights cases investigated by the Department of Justice before the local criminal investigation is finished?  Did the President, Department of Justice and media apologize for ruining a police officer's life when it turned out they were wrong?  Of course not.  Left wingers just move on to the next best thing that fits their talking points.
     The point is that in the left wing extremist world, oxymoronic behavior is a way of life.  You are with them or you are a racist, or a bigot, or insensitive.  The First Amendment is for left wingers, not conservatives.  Islamists must be allowed to pray in school to be sensitive to their culture.  Christians must not pray in school because it is offensive.  Private and Charter Schools are ruining public education and the folks that send their kids there are elitists and closet racists.  Discipline in public schools targets minorities and School Resource Officers create stigmas.  Police Officers are killing people and we must have reform.  Chicago; silence.  We must be very careful not to attach Islam to terrorists.  It is offensive to display the Ten Commandments on or around government monuments even though our laws are rooted on those very principles.
     I could go on and I am sure you could too.  The country is not perfect but I have a very difficult time believing that the majority of Americans regardless of political affiliation believe that radical points of view deserve more empathy than our traditional beliefs and values.  A religion founded in beliefs from abroad certainly does not deserve to be treated more prominently or favorably than any of the denominations and principles that this country was founded on.  It is way past time that the extremists were told to take a hike.
     Last week I chatted with one such left wing extremist about this Presidential race.  The "unknowns" with Trump were discussed and though I pointed out the naming of potential Supreme Court nominees as evidence of a known my left winger refused to accept it.  However, he did make a statement that I found incredible and a perfect example of left wing extremism desperation at its' finest.  In support of Hillary he stated;

     "Yes she is corrupt.  However, her level of corruptness falls well within acceptable political parameters".

Ponder that.  Understand that is the philosophy the vast majority of your media is operating under.  Is the first time political outsider more of a threat than the known corrupt crook?  Was the actor a better option than the incumbent peanut farmer?
     Conservatives you have been targeted.  We have to target those who would bully and threaten and spread vile falsehoods.  It's time to punch the bully in the face!          


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A High Opinion of Themselves

     Civic Service:

     "an organized period of substantial engagement and contribution to the local, national, or world community, recognized and valued by society, with minimal monetary compensation to the participant".

      Global Service Institute, Washington University in St. Louis

     Get well Marikay.  No one deserves to be hurt.  And when you make sense you deserve to be applauded.  You see, Councilperson Marikay Abuzuaiter has gone on record as saying she would have voted against the proposed city council pay raise because "it doesn't feel right".  It ain't right!!  While others will attempt to give credit to Mayor Nancy Vaughn and Councilman Justin Outling for voting against it, I cannot.  Their reason of "it shouldn't begin until 2017" (next election year) though they agree with a raise is just not strong enough.  An average council raise of approximately 60% is the largest by a huge margin of any raise in possibly the nation's history for a city council.  Why is this so ridiculous (other than the obvious)?  Let me count the ways.
     As the Greensboro News-Record points out, the Greensboro City Council is currently among the lowest paid councils among North Carolina's largest cities.  This raise would make them among the highest paid.  The total new compensation would cost tax payers approximately $76,000 per year or roughly the salary of two new Greensboro Police Officers.  Is it right that this council is among the lowest paid?  One can certainly argue that they are among if not the lowest performing council in the state.  When I worked for the city we received performance evaluations.  Has the citizens of Greensboro evaluated the council's performance?  The numbers that measure such performance are certainly not complimentary; highest unemployment rate, highest use of food stamps, 20% poverty rate with the highest property tax rate in the state to boot and considering raising them even more.  There is no plan to alleviate these numbers and no relief in sight.
     This council also voted to raise the city manager's salary though his performance has been poor as well.  Then add in the fact that every councilperson would have you believe that the Greensboro Coliseum loses money every year yet continue to pay Coliseum Director Matt Brown the highest salary of all Greensboro City employees.  This would be either a ruse or gross incompetence.
     All of this yet city employees are not being compensated for carrying out their jobs anywhere close to a 60% raise.  My last ten years with the Police Department I was advised that I had maxed out for my pay position.  "We expect your same level of above standard work but you cannot make any more money".  Would the citizens agree that Council has performed at an "above standard" level?  Raises for city employees the past several years have been in the 2% range with only tenths of a percent distinguishing the difference between standard and above standard evaluations.  Long time benefits such as longevity pay have been taken away.  Council positions are part time jobs.  I realize that a good portion of our council does not work (which is a big problem in and of itself).  Others are handsomely compensated through job salaries or other means.  If your complaint is that city council business takes up a lot of your time therefore you believe you should be compensated for that time or it's not worth it, then get out. It's called civic service!
     City employees work infinitely harder than you, have to implement and live by the crazy things you approve then sit back and watch you refuse to support them, giving in to special interests and opportunistic antagonists; all the while supporting a City Manager that is at best your puppet.  We have stood by and watched council meetings, which should be specifically for city business, allowed by you to turn into circuses for people with social agendas.  Our council meetings have become a laughing stock completely void of professionalism.  We read about ordinances or motions being passed without even being read or even understood by council members.  We watch as failed attorneys such as Lewis Pitts are time and time again allowed to disrupt meetings with no consequences forthcoming.  And if that isn't enablement at its' finest, we then watch as tens of thousands of tax payer dollars are given to law breakers supported by special interests for unsubstantiated claims of false arrest or police abuse.  We even have the nerve to allow the city manager to direct punishment for officers in these cases though a judicial official has ruled the arrests lawful.  These actions and lack of support from council are despicable.
     Yet, you decide you deserve not only a raise but a 60 freaking percent raise?  Do you believe that by the city's own performance evaluation standard that you would be rated above standard?  Care to put it to a referendum?  Better yet, let's poll the city employees who have to implement and enforce your bidding; do you dare?
     Marikay is correct; it doesn't feel right.  Until the City Council's performance improves it ain't right.  Or to sum their performance up by city evaluation standards, they are not responding to training!  
     I recommend termination!                     

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

"Something's Rotten in the State of Denmark"

     Shakespeare used this line to denote corruption or the opinion that something was wrong.  Many city wide bloggers such as myself have suspected such here in Greensboro for many years.  Former city employees and especially police officers have known it for many years.  Regardless of one's views on the effectiveness of left wing progressive political practices, the combination of perceptions of impropriety and the actual catering to opportunistic antagonists now has Greensboro "circling the drain".  Campaign promises that were spoken of by the Mayor and incumbent council members are just a scant memory now.  Once again our council has decided that they like what they do, numbers be damned.  And while residents of Greensboro, especially those on the east side continue to wait on jobs and new businesses that can pull our city from the doldrums of poverty, council still wastes time on issues that are only important to those who wish to make a quick buck or keep their name in the paper.  Material that would fall into these categories would generate many blog articles.  Today I choose to address a particular practice of waste and a dangerous precedent.
     For years it has been common knowledge that the City of Greensboro will settle any lawsuit or financial claim if the cost of settlement is less than the cost of defending.  Every civil attorney in Greensboro knows this too.  In the past, exceptions have been made if the settlement would set such a dangerous precedent that literally thousands would come out of the proverbial woodwork to collect on any incident that closely resembled that settlement.  For instance, arrest on a mistaken identity might be settled if the asking price was reasonable as judgment would obviously be rendered to the complainant should the case go to court.  Even on cases where the evidence was at best marginal the city would take the fiscally effective way out.  In some ways, this makes sense as long as it does not negatively affect an employee who more than likely did nothing wrong.  Recently the city decided to give two brothers who were lawfully arrested $50,000.  How can I say "lawfully"?  Because a court official said so; and until another court official that has the title of "Judge" disagrees it will remain a lawful arrest.  In Greensboro, our City Manager seems to believe that he has the qualifications, experience and knowledge of the law to make those determinations.  He even believes that he should further embarrass his employees by offering apologies on their behalf without allowing due process to occur and finding out for sure if in fact the arrests are unlawful.  It's very simple; conviction means lawful, dismissed by a judge after motion means unlawful.  It's a pretty easy standard.  Yet, our Manager obviously did not want this case to be tried.  Was he pressured?  Probably.  Is he scared?  Oh yeah, obviously.  Did these two people deserve $50,000 for being unlawfully arrested?  Not at this point; and unless these cases are followed up on and prosecuted and a different interpretation is made by a judge they will officially remain LAWFUL.
     While I am researching this particular incident, another has slipped through the cracks in the amount of $10,000.  This settlement was in response to a known anti-police agitator being arrested twice on separate occasions by two different female officers.  This person is 6'5" and just north of 300 pounds with an aggressive demeanor toward officers.  On March 9, 2015 he was arrested for Disorderly Conduct during a counter protest.  He was also arrested on November 22, 2014 for Interfering with an Officer in the Performance of Her Duties.  In the filed lawsuit, communications with the Police Attorney and the Department, no detail of the alleged misconduct was described.  The lawsuit continuously and consistently refers to this:

     "displayed force against plaintiff and threatened him with immediate non-consensual body contact, consummating his assault and rendering it into a battery, by touching and handling his body while placing him under arrest and transporting him into a police vehicle".

There is no mention of what law the officer violated or why the arrest was unlawful.  Remember, the magistrate gave probable cause.  Touching someone in the act of taking him into custody for a lawful arrest is not only appropriate but necessary for the safety of the prisoner.  No other acts are described or physical injuries detailed.  No reasons are provided as to why they believe the arrest was unlawful.  No information or description of why they believe the officer acted with malice is provided.  This is repeated in the lawsuit for both arrests.  In the first one, the very obvious "slight of hand occurs".
     In the first case, our suspect approaches a driver who is being detained while the officer is conducting a traffic stop.  A traffic stop is an on-going investigation and this one was for a potential DWI.  Our suspect walks directly into the crime scene, hands the driver an item.  This alone constitutes Interfering.  The officer has no way of knowing what is being handed to the driver creating a huge officer safety concern.  No details of the officer's alleged misconduct are provided but in the lawsuit, the plaintiff admits this:

     "Plaintiff handed a printed flyer to the driver of the stopped vehicle concerning police liability, asked the driver if there was a problem to which the driver responded there was not.  Immediately, the plaintiff backed away somewhat, and continued recording the event with his cell phone photographic application".

You see, there is a confession in there that he violated the law.  This is why the city manager should butt out.  This attorney and plaintiff convinced the city manager that this was about recording a stop with a cell phone.  The recording had nothing to do with the arrest for Interfering.  The interfering was the actual entering of the crime scene and handing a detained suspect any item.  By entering the crime scene, this large, aggressive individual caused a big distraction to the officer taking her attention away from her detainee.  He then refused to remove himself to a safe distance from the crime scene allowing the officer to concentrate on her detainee.  His acts compromised her right and ability to maintain officer safety. That is the interference; the filming and camera had nothing to do with the violation of the law.  This time it was a piece of paper; what if he handed him a weapon?  Given the history of the plaintiff, just who had the intent of malice here?
     Yet, the powers that be settled.  Every civil lawyer in Greensboro knows that asking for a reasonable sum like $10,000 almost always will result in settlement.  However, to settle a blatant interfering charge and not allow both cases to be tried in a court of law to determine if the arrests were lawful is ridiculous.  To not at least make the plaintiffs provide any evidence of misconduct is incompetent.
     What do both of these cases, the $50,000 and $10,000 have in common?  All parties in both these cases are followers and were advocated for by Nelson Johnson.  In both cases a judicial official found probable cause for the arrests.  Both cases were recommended for dismissal by the city and not tried.  Worse yet, in both cases the city chose to punish police officers, docking them two days pay for arrests that have been determined lawful by every judicial official that has heard evidence in the cases.  Does anyone believe that in our current political climate that if it could be proven that two citizens were unlawfully arrested and grossly mistreated by the police with malice, that the restitution the court would award would ONLY be $60,000 spread between 3 people and their attorneys?
     These lawsuits are the equivalent of writing on a napkin with crayon "they arrested me and Nelson Johnson is my friend so pay me or he will call you bad names".  The City of Greensboro City Council, City Manager and City Attorney need to be held accountable.  Settling lawsuits is one thing; punishing police officers AND awarding tax payer dollars promote the perception that our officers did something wrong.  Zero evidence exists supporting that perception.  The judicial system certainly hasn't ruled so.  How much longer will the citizens of Greensboro stand by and watch the political, opportunistic antagonists in concert with our elected and appointed city officials continue to mistreat city employees in general and police officers in particular in the name of appeasement?
     $60,000 may not sound like much in the grand scheme of things but for the majority of residents of our city it sounds like a fortune.  Our city security is hanging in the balance at the moment though city officials turn a blind eye.  Stop corruptly wasting money and setting dangerous precedents and learn how to tell these opportunists NO.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Enough is Enough; Westmoreland Must Go

     This farce has gone on long enough.  We learned yesterday that the gutless and cowardly City Manager of Greensboro has once again bent over backwards to soothe the drum beats of our local opportunistic antagonists.  Oh I know what you're thinking; Greensboro and many cities like us have paid off frivolous lawsuits or even the threat of them for years if they determine it is more cost efficient to settle than go to trial.  I know it, you know it and the rest of the criminal world knows it.  So the actual paying off of two brothers who were lawfully arrested isn't so much the surprise.  However, paying them a whopping $50 THOUSAND is ridiculous.
     This is not the first time Jim Westmoreland has done this either.  I am currently awaiting a response on a PIRT request I made to the city three weeks ago regarding another such payoff though this one was merely $10 thousand.  Though less money, the reason for payment was even more ridiculous but followed the same procedure as this one.  While the city has responded confirming the payment, they are absolutely stalling on the part of my request asking who authorized that payment.  Of course, we know who authorized it.  I want it in writing.
     City Managers know little or in this case nothing about criminal law and procedure.  Westmoreland has demonstrated that he has no clue what constitutes a lawful arrest.  Further, he has forced dismissals of charges without obtaining opinions or rulings from court personnel about the validity of these arrests.  There is absolutely NO reason to force dismissals of criminal charges at the city manager level.  He is not in the judicial system.  He is not knowledgeable in the judicial system.  Without confirmation from those who are in the judicial system, he has absolutely no freaking clue whether an arrest is good or bad; ZERO!!
     These cases were found to have probable cause to arrest by a magistrate; a judicial official.  That in and of itself removes unlawful arrest from the equation at that point in the process.  These cases should have been heard at the District Court level by a judge; yet another judicial official.  Judges rule on the lawfulness of an arrest during criminal trials.  If the judge finds the arrest lawful, he then rules on guilt or innocence based on evidence presented that is compared to our judicial standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.  Not ALL doubt, a "reasonable" doubt.  If the verdict is guilty, then obviously the arrest was lawful.  If the arrest was unlawful, the judge would dismiss the case prior to the point of verdict.  This is not a difficult concept to grasp.  Nowhere in the US Constitution, NC General Statutes or even the Greensboro City Ordinances do you find a codicil giving the City Manager the authority to intervene in our system of justice and dismiss criminal cases for political folly.  Had these two cases been tried, guilty verdicts would more than likely have been rendered.  The arrests were good by the letter of the law.
     So, $60 thousand tax payer dollars have been spent basically to gain silence and cooperation from a strong voting block.  Even worse, two officers were actually docked two days pay as punishment for violations they did not commit.  Besides the City Manager and the opportunistic antagonist that was driving the issue, who else called the arrests unlawful?  Not Internal Affairs.  Not the Police Department.  Not the District Attorney's office.  Not even our own City Attorney.  Just who IS running the show downtown?  Who has given Jim Westmoreland the authority to throw thousands of dollars away regardless of the true facts?  And worse still, why are police officers who are not just doing their job, but doing it correctly having money taken out of their pay when no proof of any unlawful arrests exists?
     The answer is simple.  Both circumstances involve members of the Beloved Community Center and have been driven by Nelson Johnson.  Currently, Nelson Johnson has strong influence over a majority of our City Council.  He terrifies the City Manager.  For all intents and purposes, Johnson has a female lapdog named Jim.  Recent articles involving trends and statistics in economy, jobs and livability continue to paint Greensboro in a bad light.  Political deals made behind the scenes with no evidence to support these frivolous claims accompany these bad statistics and accelerate the downward spiral our city is in.  There is no confidence in the current leadership in Greensboro, be it at the Council level or within city administration.  Voter apathy and a feeling of hopelessness is rampant with no change of direction in sight.  In Greensboro, the city manager has decided that crime does pay; well!
     Is their any recourse?  I believe so and am actually exploring such a remedy.  If a judge did not dismiss the case, it's not really dismissed.  Any citizen can file misdemeanor charges as long as the statute of limitations has not run out.  Those same involved officers can be subpoenaed to court to testify even if they did not participate in the filing of the charges.  These folks can still be prosecuted without the police department's involvement in the filing of the charges.
     Why do this; three reasons.  One, the lawfulness of both incidents needs to be determined by qualified court personnel.  Two, once guilty verdicts are handed down this City Manager needs to be held accountable for his reckless disregard of spending tax payer money on frivolous claims.  Third and most important, those officers that have been harmed and their reputations besmirched by Jim Westmoreland should have their files expunged of these incidents and their pay restored.  Is it worth the effort?  I believe it is.
     If the citizens of Greensboro do not stand up and insist that our City Council and administration support our police officers, this city will continue to be influenced by selfish agendists.  We are Baltimore already.
     If an officer does wrong hold him or her accountable; no one is suggesting otherwise.  If the court determines the arrest was unlawful, I have no problem with the city offering settlements as long as it was the unlawfulness of the arrest that is being settled on.  "Not Guilty" verdicts do not constitute unlawful arrests.  However, a police officer deserves and is constitutionally guaranteed the same presumption of innocence until proven guilty that every other US citizen enjoys.  Jim Westmoreland making judgements on the lawfulness of criminal charges without allowing an infinitely more qualified court system to decide that issue is not due process.  It's time for Jim to take his Civil Engineering background and apply it to a Civil Engineering job.  A Public Administrator he ain't.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Accountability and Transparency; the Body Worn Camera Debate

     Thank you for your indulgence while I stepped away for a bit.  As one of my friends on Facebook pointed out, lots of stuff has been happening the past month that would add "fuel" to a blog.  I just felt the need to step back and observe for a bit, maybe gather my thoughts and decide which issue to address first.  I have made no secret of my desire to give voice to police officers and teachers and any other group with no prominent advocates in our city so I will start there.
     I have watched and listened to with great interest the continuing lack of support our Greensboro Police officers are having to deal with.  The extreme left wingers that dominate city council are continuing to allow amplified voices from opportunistic antagonists spew rhetoric claiming widespread corruption in our department with little to no regard to actual evidence.  As I wrote in earlier articles, the New York Times article that all agenda theorists proclaimed as gospel when it was published back in October was flawed and its' claimed investigation incomplete.  My position was then and is now that the writer investigated the information only to the point that it proved their agenda, ignoring details that would come from more in depth investigation that may disprove their position.  Independent studies conducted by UNC-G and NC A&T proved my position and the revelation of their studies seems to have silenced those who depended on that bastion of journalistic integrity for their fighting points.
     Of course, just as has happened whenever anti-police forces have latched onto a rallying cry that turns out to not be legitimate, they are nowhere to be found to express their remorse at conclusion jumping.  During our local election forums back in October when this fictional story broke, council member incumbents (Marikay Abuzuaiter in particular) expressed "shock" and were "appalled" at the reported behavior of our officers. Where are they now expressing the same emotions with regard to an out of town newspaper (?) denigrating our department using insufficient research?  Only Councilman Mike Barber during a public forum stood against the NY Times article and was chastised and ridiculed by the locals for doing so.  It's the left wing extremist liberal way.
     Now we have a movement to make body worn camera footage public; or so they say.  You see, camera footage can further the agenda that most officers are racist (regardless of the race of the police officer according to some) and will prove once and for all the oppressionist tactics of police officers.  Even Councilman Outling has written a policy just in case the state gives them the go ahead.  Now, admittedly I have not consulted with police administrators on this issue but I have an idea based on my 29 years of experience as a street level police officer.  It is based on accountability and transparency; for everybody!  
     Greensboro citizens have a right to privacy.  They should be able to have a choice on whether their video footage is released.  However, once they decide that they want to view the footage of their encounter with police then the department should make that footage public by publishing it on their website with a brief description of what the citizen claims happened; regardless of what it depicts.  When a citizen requests to view the video, he or she should fill out a request that gives the reason for the viewing and sign the "notarized" document.  Just above the signature line should be this sentence:

     "Upon viewing this video, the requesting citizen acknowledges that the video will be published for public viewing on the Greensboro Police Department website".

All videos that are viewed, not just the ones that may depict misconduct by an officer.  This does not interfere with the complaint process, a citizen's right to complain or the investigation of said complaints.  However, for those who like to involve themselves as "help" for those who make claims of police misconduct it puts the control back into the hands of citizens.  It removes manipulation by those who only want "certain" videos released.  It adds in the concept of citizen review as all citizens of Greensboro can view the video, read the claim and decide for themselves if the evidence fits the accusation.  It also allows citizens to keep score for themselves without media interpretation or having to depend on the word of those with an extremist's agenda.  If the videos indicate a problem with an officer, it is there for the world to see.  If the videos indicate that the citizen was the issue, the world can see that too.  No dependence on media, no dependence on activists, no dependence on police spokespersons, no dependence on politicians trying to ingratiate themselves to a constituency.  What you see is what you get.
     The statistics will be easy to count.  I'm sure that there will be those who interpret certain videos in different ways but the information will be there for the world to decide.  If officers know that these videos are subject to release will they be more mindful of their professionalism; absolutely.  Will citizens be more mindful of making excessive or extravagant claims of misconduct that will be shown on video; they should though we don't know if the forces of extremism will advise them correctly.  We have seen citizens taken advantage of by these folks then tossed under the bus before.  Will it remove politicians from making quick judgments or even false assumptions prior to the evidence being presented; it should though there will still be one or two to get burned because they are too willing to believe the anti-police rhetoric.  Perhaps the biggest advantage is that it will remove the weak minded city manager from the criminal process in Greensboro and stop him from having legitimate charges dismissed without adjudication by those who actually have legal knowledge and paying sums of tax payer money to undeserving criminal violators.  
     Can this backfire?  Sure it can; the claims that most officers are committing misconduct could turn out to be true.  One act of misconduct out of however many videos needs to and should be addressed.  It is my experience with the department that this occurs without citizen complaint.  However, having worked in the profession for 29 years and serving with many of the folks now working for the Greensboro Police Department I am more than confident that any misconduct will be minimal and that our citizen's confidence in our department will grow exponentially.  The NY Times presented partial numbers that were used to attack our police officers without presenting full and impartial statistics that would further explain disparity in those numbers.  Now two local research institutions of higher learning, one traditionally African American, has disputed those claims.
     Greensboro Police officers are NOT opposed to being held accountable or even to a higher standard; that is a socialistically perpetrated narrative that has absolutely no merit.  Higher accountability standards need to be implemented throughout Greensboro.  If in our police department, then certainly in our administration, our elected and appointed officials and yes, even in our citizens.
     Transparency and accountability for all; let's do this!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Notes from the SRO Forum at Grimsley

     You knew it was coming.  With all the media and political world participating in a nationwide police "bash fest" it was only a matter of time before certain school board members brought up removing School Resource Officers from Guilford County Middle schools once again.  The Guilford County School board held two community forums last week to obtain input on the role and need for SRO's in middle schools.  Having served as an SRO for the final 8 years of my police career I decided to attend and to mention things that SRO's do that do not normally get discussed.  Examples of these items would be to protect the campus from outside crimes that are on-going in the area of the school or preventing suspicious persons from accessing students or entering school property.  Most of the speakers spoke in favor of retaining SRO's and represented a broad demographic of citizens.  They mentioned positive relationships that SRO's have developed with students, mentoring opportunities and assisting parents and staff in problem solving.  Some spoke to reducing the anxiety and apprehension their children have regarding school violence.  Teachers spoke to educational opportunities regarding classroom teaching and guest speaking.  My turn to speak came early in this forum and I decided to speak mainly on the positive aspects and effects SRO's have.  As the evening went on the tone changed as many of those who spoke against SRO's somehow managed to get their chance AFTER those of us who could rebut their claims, misrepresentations and flat out lies.
     You see, "race" is being injected heavily in this discussion.  African American students do get suspended and referred to court at a higher rate than white students.  The claims made during this forum as to why this disparity exists focused entirely on the existence of police officers in schools with no mention of the actual actions of the students.  A few claims were lodged against the school system itself but the main gist of the claims made by these dissenters were that the arrest and discipline rates are skewed because police officers are racists.  Even those who "attempted" to not blame officers as the sole reason pointed to the particular race of the officer as being the deciding factor.  Here are a few of the claims made, none of which were backed up with legitimate reasoning or examples.
     Most of the SRO's are white which leads to problems with African-American students.

This claim was brought up by a candidate for school board who is running unopposed meaning he will be elected.  He used the statistic that 57% of SRO's are white and when I asked him after the meeting if he knew most of our local SRO's (Greensboro) were African-American at the time I was in the program, he stated "that's the national average".  Sorry, but the discussion is about local SRO's not national ones.  Given that the population of the United States is approximately 78% white I'm not sure the statistic has any relevance at all.  This type of misuse of statistics for political points is irresponsible.

     SRO's should not be in charge of school discipline.

We aren't.  This is a claim constantly referred to by those opposed to School Resource Officers and no matter how many times they are told they still use this.  As an SRO I would occasionally remind students of a school rule or policy but my job did not require me to be involved in enforcing those rules.  Administrators generally would only call an SRO in the event of absolute non-compliance which would then cross into a criminal violation.  Even then the student could generally be persuaded not to let their actions go there and gain compliance.  Of course, the video of the SRO in South Carolina dragging the female student out of her chair was brought up.  That SRO made the mistake of not taking the extra step of emptying the room before engaging the student.  This was a common practice of mine and resulted in the student complying 99% of the time once their audience was removed with no use of physical force.

     School Resource Officers who charge middle school students and arrest them are putting marks on their records at a young age for making a mistake, and that will follow them for the rest of their lives.

This claim was made by a rather large and just as loud male parent who has a history of being difficult with the schools.  Instead of stating his concerns to the board, he decided to turn the microphone around so he could "preach" to the audience.  He started by denouncing everyone that had spoken of "positive" experiences with SRO's (most of whom were African-American to that point) and literally went on a very boisterous tirade against the presence of "armed uniformed police officers" in schools.  After three sentences that basically said "I don't like the police" he profoundly stated that "all ya'll know that this is ALL about race".  He didn't really have any details other than to tell a story about how one of my former peers (a female SRO that just happened to be sitting beside me at the meeting) had kept him out of trouble once yet gave no regard to his only positive example and sticking to his premise that SRO's were racists.  It was at this point that the forum completely changed.  This guy decided that loud and intimidating was the way to go and his performance decidedly affected everyone who dared speak positive about SRO's the rest of the evening.  He scared most of the white school board members who immediately became uncomfortable because they had zero idea how to respond.  His angry proclamation "I ain't going nowhere" didn't make much sense given the lack of detail in his complaints but it served its' purpose as everyone with anything positive to say from that point on literally trembled at the microphone amongst the finger snapping and comments from the anti-SRO crowd.  After his "sermon" several folks that had signed up to speak quietly declined when their name was called.
     Of course, the truth which I had already mentioned in my comments to the board is that with the exception of an occasional 16 year old still in middle school, juvenile students have their records sealed and kept confidential when they turn 16.  Those records are not public and DO NOT follow that child the rest of their lives.  Only a recent change in the law allows prosecutors and judges to consider a juvenile offense IF it is a serious felony conviction when adjudicating an adult criminal offense.  The other truth is that police officers including SRO's do not arrest or even decide to prosecute juveniles.  An SRO cannot even take a student into custody without a secure custody order being sought by a court counselor and approved by a judge.  An SRO does not have any say on whether a juvenile is even adjudicated.  This narrative of "locking up kids" or "ruining their record" is a false narrative and nothing more than political rhetoric.

     Black kids are getting arrested and sent to jail for disorderly conduct but white kids are not.

     More African American students do get charged with disorderly conduct but they are not going to jail for a first, second, third or even fifth offense.  White kids get arrested too.  The group of African American students that commit disorderly conduct offenses are a small percentage of the entire demographic but the ones who do violate (as with white kids who are charged) this law seem to do so "repeatedly" resulting in more contact.  Students that get formally charged with disorderly conduct have not committed that offense just once.  When I became an SRO I was told by my peers that a charge of disorderly conduct at school was impossible to convict in court.  I consulted with Judge Lawrence McSwain about this and asked he and Guilford County Court Counselor Mary Bass what criteria they wanted satisfied before referring that charge to the Court Counselor's Office.  Both advised that they wanted to give school disciplinary action a chance to work first.  In other words when it was apparent that school consequences were not working then a charge of disorderly conduct would be considered and stronger court related consequences implemented.  Most of the time the Court Counselor would try deferment once or twice before recommending adjudication.  This myth that black students or any student for that matter are being sent directly to court for a first offense is not true.
     One parent told the story of her 7 year old having an SRO called on him because he wouldn't do his writing assignment. She even claimed it happened twice and the SRO warned that he could be charged with disorderly conduct.  Poppycock!!!  SRO's are not assigned to elementary schools, would not be called for school assignments and wouldn't even be dispatched if they were.  After a few minutes of this "story" she revealed that she "had to come to class and sit with him for a school day" which is a common practice for behavioral issues with younger children.
     Another parent made the incredible statement that "I don't get this charging kids for fighting; hell we fight at home all the time but we don't call the police".  Still another claimed that her autistic son's "civil rights as an African American male" had been violated because the SRO was called by school administrators to escort him to in school detention.  My experience with a large "high functioning" autistic population at Grimsley tells me that those kids sometimes decide to wander off campus if not supervised.  No mention was made by this mother on why her son was being sent to in school detention in the first place but the administrator has more than likely had experiences with this young man that would suggest he might not show up if left to get there himself.

     Children are being traumatized by a uniformed police officer carrying a gun in their school.

     During my career I cannot count the number of times that I have been invited to school classrooms of all ages to speak about or display police equipment.  Not once have I ever heard of a student being "traumatized" by the presence of a uniformed police officer.  The very success of the Greensboro Police Department's Safety Town debunks this nonsense.  Middle and High School students of all ages and ethnicities are very much outspoken and participatory when discussing laws, legal procedures and experiences in law enforcement.  All of them want to see and ask questions about our equipment.  Of course there is trepidation for students who have made bad decisions but routine patrol and presence in the schools do not traumatize students.

     The closing remarks from school board members basically resembled their demeanor's once the attacks began.  Of course, Amos Quick and Deena Hayes were hearing what they wanted to hear and used their closing remarks to get on their political soap boxes.  The other board members very much chose their words carefully saying virtually nothing of substance, using the get me out of here strategic statement "you have given us all some things to consider".  One even for all intents and purposes apologized for being born white.  It was truly sad and very little leadership was on display.  Deena even used statistics to point out that juvenile crime was at an all time low suggesting that SRO's are no longer needed.  Three of the recent studies that show this reduction all state that they cannot come up with a precise reason as to "why".  One can reasonably counter that argument that the trend of reduction on those numbers coincide with the implementation of the School Resource Officer program.  Many board members stammered about finally concluding with the term "more training".  SRO's attend a yearly conference with a week of SRO specific training in addition to the yearly police department mandatory in-service training.  This does not include specialized classes and schools that officers also can attend.  What "more" training are they referring to?
     Also, the notion that evidence exists that school discipline is targeting African-American students more harshly than white students for the same offense is an interesting claim.  A few years back, I challenged school personnel from the administrative offices who were making this claim during a pre-school year SRO meeting.  The intent was to obviously get SRO's to "not enforce" certain laws.  When I asked the question "are you stating that you have evidence that if a white student and a black student commit the same offense and it is both their first offense that the black student is being suspended more often than the white student"; the reply was "yes, we have that evidence".  My follow up question was "who have you fired?"  No answer or response was given.  I question the validity of that claim due to the fact that no one had been fired for what would be a very obvious federal civil rights violation.  At that time 53% of Guilford County School Principals were African American.
     Whether this small group of parents want to believe it or not, arrests would go up without SRO's on campus.  The loss of a visible deterrent to crime and violence alone would cause a spike in activity.  The State of North Carolina has listed 17 criminal offenses that schools are required by law to report to law enforcement.  If a street level officer has to respond to the school to take that report he will have zero insight into the suspect student's history, family situation or background.  He will have no reference to good or bad aspects of that student when deciding what course of action to take.  And if that officer does a report, he will most certainly refer that student to the Court Counselor every time.  Without SRO's on campus, crime and arrest statistics will go up.    
    Finally, one African American high school student and her mother (a PTA president) spoke near the end of the forum.  The mother wanted to speak in favor of SRO's but was obviously affected by the more vocal group of opposition.  Her daughter was a perfect example of this.  She told the board how "wonderful" her SRO was and how he actually would come into her choir class and warm up and sing with them.  Then she quickly said how "horrible it is that the other SRO's weren't like hers".  I guarantee that neither the mother or daughter came to that forum with something negative to say; they were intimidated into qualifying their remarks.
     There was one item remarkably absent from the discussion from all parties involved in the forum at Grimsley.  Not one time did I hear parents, school board members or any speaker refer to the responsibility of the students to behave nor any of the dissenting parents remotely taking responsibility for their child's behavior.
     It's all the police's fault.