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.