"You are entitled to your own opinions but not your own set of facts"- Daniel Patrick Moynihan
As we saw after part 2 there are many ways that folks choose to "interpret" history in which they were not a part of; both written word and "reported" actions. Though taken to task by some folks I still haven't received an answer to my question at the end of that article so I will assume no one wants to offer one. The Greensboro Police Department has come under siege the past two years with some in the community even voicing the opinion that the department is not only corrupt but has been inherently so for years. Nelson Johnson has been at the forefront of such rhetoric for almost 50 of those years. Now those in the community, both minions of Johnson and those who are not, are beating the drum though they offer no specific details of such corruption. Oh they point to specific incidents from time to time and usually follow with complaints about lack of transparency and certain personnel privacy laws they tend to not like when it doesn't protect them. It's difficult to comprehend how you can complain about a lack of details yet come to the conclusion that corruption exists. We live in a society that preaches not to judge before knowing the whole story (i.e. stereotype) yet those that espouse that position seem to have a bit of a double standard when addressing police issues. These same folks demand apologies yet offer none when it is determined that their jumping to a conclusion is proven wrong. Even worse, they will still refer to these incidents long after the wrong is uncovered; "Greensboro, Ferguson...Ferguson, Greensboro".
Our City Council is not speaking up on behalf of their police department. Why? Is it votes? Shouldn't be; with only 11.5% bothering to vote they seem to have a lock on each election. Or is it that 11.5% that they are catering to? Greensboro has been and always will be a "blue" town. But this goes beyond Democrat/Republican or Conservative/Liberal. Reverend Johnson seems to spend quite a bit of time in the Council offices these days and can be seen participating in photo ops quite frequently. There is no doubt to any city employee that he wields quite a bit of influence on the Council at the moment, having the "ear" and even the "fear" of at least four councilpersons, the Mayor and especially the city manager. The anti-police drum beats loudly in Greensboro with virtually no defense from our elected officials and zero support from the city manager's office. But why? Why would the council in general and the city manager in particular give such leeway to a person whose history in Greensboro is so notorious and allow their department to be bashed in such general terms? Why does the police department not get to be judged on a case by case basis instead of being targeted in general? Are we to believe that each and every Greensboro Police Officer starts their tour of duty each day with an agenda to see how many black folks they can target? Even more far fetched, that such a conspiracy can be kept a secret to the extent that the public would come to a common sense conclusion that every officer in the department actually takes up for each other? How could we possibly identify, locate and hire such blindly devoted people?
The answer is the police department doesn't. Officers that work in the street do not blindly trust supervisors and certainly not internal affairs. Currently, morale is low at GPD and the feeling among street level officers and detectives is that the city manager and city council does not support them. With other departments in our state enhancing benefits as our city reduces and takes them it is only a matter of time before recruiting efforts take a hit. Officers barely vested or not vested at all are already looking. No one remotely familiar with our police department or law enforcement in general with any common sense is going to believe that a department wide conspiracy of that magnitude exists or could possibly exist.
Yet, nothing from the Mayor, the manager or council in defense OR support. Does police work need fine tuning for the times? Absolutely; the profession is and has always been ever evolving. Corrupt? That would involve proof that officers are allowed to stay employed when they are proven to consciously and intentionally commit criminal acts against citizens, and that every officer in the department is willfully covering up. According to some this has gone on in Greensboro and around the country for years yet no one has ever presented anything but their opinion based on at best partial information or their own set of facts. So why does council let this go on?
Well, it certainly stays in the news and it sure beats talking about actual facts. Facts such as Greensboro leading the state's 5 largest cities in unemployment. Or that Greensboro has the highest percentage of citizen dependency on food stamps in the state. It's sure better than pointing out that Greensboro is second only to Durham in the percentage of our citizens living at or below the poverty line and that percentage is over 20%. How about that even though we brag about property taxes not going up the past several years that we still have the highest property taxes in the state while not counting rising water and parking rates.
Maybe bashing the police helps take our minds and attention away from the continued push to build what was originally supposed to be a privately funded performing arts center? Though we used the facility in Durham to promote this venture we now seem to ignore the fact that the Durham facility is not doing well and is not the downtown panacea we were led to believe it was; yet we still plan on forging ahead. How about the continued development of high priced housing downtown or the continued development of areas such as Glenwood that instead of renovating existing "affordable" housing (which we determined during the recent election was a desperate need) is actually eliminating it pushing lower wage earning residents away from the area? Wonder who will get a neighborhood grocery store first; east Greensboro or your new downtown residents who have more than ample transportation to any store in the city.
Perhaps bashing the police will keep residents from inquiring as to how this new and improved downtown that has by our politicians account increased in tax value (a selling point during the election) but how one particular section managed to depreciate 66% since 2012 allowing a "blind bid" to somehow win out for a couple hundred thousand dollars less than the new appraised value? Isn't it at least "suspicious" that a developer that contributed to every single council persons campaign with the exception of Mike Barber's managed to correctly bid on such a bargain with the Manager's office only explanation of why the property is being sold at all is "we're not in the landlord business"?
Yes, they scream and tout transparency and accountability for the police which none of the officers or administrators is opposed to within the law. Yet when it is asked that we require the same transparency of non-profit organizations that we supply tax payer dollars to annually, the council balks. How many of our city council persons are involved directly or indirectly with non-profit organizations?
Projects worthy of investigation such as "Aquaponics" that could provide food and jobs to a lesser skilled work force are looked at for local support only if they can be manipulated by local developers. Thankfully they did not get their greedy hands on that one. Projects such as the very risky "megasite" trumpeted as job producers do not address infrastructure problems regarding public transportation that would help our citizens that need the opportunities the most. Self back patting over businesses such as Honda Jet provide no solutions for those in need of employment locally. A plan to hold back tax payer dollars funding on an airport project until Winston and High Point commit as originally planned is now being pushed forward and $2.5 million dollars committed without those assurances based on the council's Economic Committee chairman's recommendation. That particular councilman is 27 years old, has a degree in Political Science and at last report works for Home Depot. That resume doesn't exactly provide community confidence when committing millions of dollars of tax payers money, especially under the assumption "if we go ahead and commit they will certainly follow". That might work, it might not but it begs the question "just what is it that holds Winston and High Point to that commitment"?
I served the citizens of Greensboro for 29 years as a Greensboro Police Officer and I make no apologies for coming to their defense. I know police officers aren't perfect and I certainly wasn't. However I never pre-planned to confront or "get" any citizen on any call and certainly never based any enforcement action on race or gender. Has it ever happened; probably. One time is too many and usually results in that officer being unemployed if the complaint is sustained. It certainly puts them under a microscope if it's not and will raise huge red flags if similar complaints become a trend. Is it rampant in law enforcement in general and Greensboro in particular; absolutely not.
What it is though is a topic that appeals to certain opportunistic antagonists in our city that control or strongly influence the city's most active voter constituency. It conveniently supplies a ready made smokescreen to other council ventures and follies, the progressive kind that have continuously in our country's history killed cities. Area high school graduates are leaving for college never to return. Local college graduates aren't staying in Greensboro anymore. There are no jobs, just new bars and restaurants. The population is becoming more and more indigent leading to a shrinking tax base. Instead of voter anger we have voter apathy with opinions that there is no hope for change. The extremists have infiltrated our city government and they are protecting incompetent city supervisors, in particular our city manager, and they are all too willing to let our Police Department take the fall and provide cover for their continued bad fiscal decisions. The sad part is that even if the only hope to affect change in our current direction occurs (council redistricting) it could very well be too late.
Perception is reality for most of the public and to a large extent is controlled nationally by the media. Locally, very few bother to watch or read beyond media headlines anymore. They do not trust the story to be accurate or objective or without a particular political slant. 88.5% of Greensboro's registered voters have already thrown in the towel. The threat is real and if the citizens of Greensboro do not wake up soon and address it....well, ever hear of Detroit?
The comment referencing the Durham Performing Arts Center "not doing well" is in error. The financial records published by the City of Durham show that the center has made a profit the past two years. After rereading the articles that I used to make that statement, I have decided that they seem to be more subjective than I first interpreted. My "opinion" is that Greensboro has more pressing needs than a performing arts center at the moment, and that we do not have some of the advantages that Durham has in drawing patrons to their venue.