Just how did we get here? What exactly is going on in city hall? Yes, I know that there is a national phenomenon that is in style in which left wing progressive extremists take a "one in a hundreds of thousands" incident, force a rush to judgment and present the incident as proof positive the police harass and unduly arrest minorities. Never mind statistical data to the contrary. Never mind statistical data showing almost the exact opposite of what they have sensationalized to be true. Throughout the country every incident involving the police using deadly force on an African American the past two years has made headlines unless the facts are so blatantly in support of the officer even the media cannot justify making a sensationalized report. Our local extremists fanatics have been fanning the flames in Greensboro for years. Now it appears we have a Mayor, City Manager and a council member so weak that the fanatics are getting their way.
No police officer WANTS to shoot anyone. The scrutiny and investigation, the post trauma of taking another life was hard enough before the Monday morning quarterbacks with their agendas showed up. Is there mistrust of the police in this country? Yes, somewhat among minority communities, more so among criminals. Is there mistrust among police officers of community antagonists and politicians in this country? You better believe it. I feel qualified to say based on my 29 years of experience as a Greensboro Police Officer that no working man or woman, civilian or sworn officer including most of the command staff currently trusts the Mayor, the City Council or the City Manager to do their jobs properly or merely support them in their jobs. Mayor Vaughn's apology to a convicted habitual felon using a body worn camera video as proof positive of two officers misconduct was reprehensible on many levels. It is also typical of a pattern the Mayor has participated in with her new bosom buddy Nelson Johnson the past several years. Johnson has almost single handedly controlled the narrative from council and has intimidated City Manager Jim Westmoreland so badly that the police department has lost almost all control of applying officer discipline. The events are investigated, Nelson Johnson says "that's not good enough for me" and the case is reopened with the officer(s) receiving new disciplinary findings that appease Johnson. Does this sound fair to you; the most notorious civil agitator in the history of Greensboro and a noted police "hater" calling the shots? That is exactly what has been going on since Nancy Vaughn has been Mayor.
Every time the city has hired a Police Chief from outside the department (with the exception of Jeter Williams in the late 1940's) the results have been no better than "mixed" and ranging to disastrous. The hiring of Ken Miller from Charlotte (or the dumping on Greensboro from Charlotte, depending on who you ask) allowed Nelson Johnson greater access. He had already successfully lobbied to have a state historical marker erected depicting his fictitious version of a gunfight by gaining council approval. That move to appease him only enabled him to venture further into city policies and operation. Miller was unequipped to understand real police work and all too willing to give in to a more progressive council's whims. It didn't take long before the council with Miller's assistance were determining legalities of cases that only Judge's have the authority and expertise to decide, even after other judicial officials whose job it is to decide such legalities had already ruled. By going down this road, Nelson Johnson and his new band of cronies including the Mayor and City Manager, now began to dictate what was a lawful arrest and what was not. That sounds almost as ridiculous as appointing this same agitator to the search committee for the next Chief of Police once Miller retired to go to Greenville, SC. Yeah, that happened too.
Which brings us to where we are now. You see, Nelson Johnson did not get his way. He wanted to dictate who and what the next Chief would be. His internal candidate did not make the finals. His external candidate was simply not as qualified as any GPD officer the rank of Captain and above. The committee got it right and the City Manager bumbled into the right decision though I'm not sure he was going that direction before the identity of the external candidate was leaked thus the Thursday announcement. Nelson Johnson's response; he immediately held a press conference denouncing the hiring of a racist Chief and concluded his press conference by leading the chant "Ferguson, Greensboro...Greensboro, Ferguson". He has preached against and hounded Chief Scott from the very moment he was introduced as Chief and still refers to him as a racist when speaking to attendees of his church . He has NOT supported him in any way and has participated in subversive activities designed to have him removed so that he can convince the City Council in general and the Mayor in particular to replace him with his desired candidate. I wrote a blog article that was published in the News and Record supporting the selection and comparing the qualifications of Chief Scott and the external candidate. I supported Chief Scott then. I do support him now. I believe that recent department and disciplinary decisions have been unduly and unlawfully influenced by the city council and city manager and based on outside articles, antagonistic demands and an absolute lack of understanding of the law enforcement function. Remove these ridiculous obstructions that are being built by the Mayor, City Manager with influence from Johnson and he could succeed. Nelson Johnson's alternative is completely unacceptable.
A few officers in the command staff of GPD have managed to ingratiate themselves to Johnson. Maybe they have seen the handwriting on the wall and ambition or even survival instinct have taken over. Whatever their reasons they have had a devastating effect on the department and its' officers. Disciplinary investigations now are routinely re-opened with disciplinary actions changed or added coinciding with Johnson's demands. Legal rulings by magistrate's, officials whose main purpose and job description is determining probable cause for arrests, are being overturned by pressure from Johnson with the backing of the City Manager, neither who have the legal expertise or authority by law to do so. Pressure from the council and Johnson have seen restrictions placed on GPD officers in enforcing laws (equipment, chases) that the state clearly have legislated to enforce and limited use of tools such as tasers beyond what state law requires. By allowing this to occur, the City Manager has placed the city in greater civil danger allowing Johnson to demand money whether a court has decided if the law was broken or not. Obviously, a conviction in a court of law greatly diminishes or eliminates civil responsibility.
Examples; here are three.
One involves a local, known police agitator that represents and advocates for the Beloved Community Center which is Nelson Johnson's organization. In his lawsuit in which he declared his arrest for Interfering with a Police Officer was unlawful, he actually admits to violating the law. A magistrate found probable cause for the arrest. The case was dismissed at the city level and we paid him $10,000. I filed a PIRT request to obtain a copy of the lawsuit, confirmation of the payment and who authorized it. I received the copy of the lawsuit and the confirmation of payment, however I was told that no information on who authorized the payment was available or could be located. The city paid $10,000 of tax payer contributions to an admitted law breaker and did not record the name of the authorizing city employee? Incompetent or was I lied to?
Then there was the Scale's brothers case in which a video showing absolutely nothing that the officer did wrong was used as a means of declaring racial bias and harassment. The arrest was lawful according to a magistrate and the enforcement action included a custodial arrest for an outstanding warrant. The video was portrayed as the officer being "too physical" however nothing on the video depicted excessive force. Nelson Johnson represented the two brothers and bullied the City Manager into re-opening the case and adding punishment that included days off without pay to an officer that had already been served his findings. Mediation was attempted to appease Johnson and though he according to sources acknowledged "a good try" he intimidated the City Manager by threatening civil disturbance if the officer wasn't punished further. To top this off, someone once again authorized payment in the sum of $50,000 without a lawsuit being filed and decided to drop the charges without the benefit of a court trial allowing a qualified judicial official to decide what the evidence in the case showed.
Now, we have a convicted habitual felon with over 50 entries on his criminal record that got caught attempting to break into his mother's house. He has done it twice before. His mother thanked us for stopping him and confirmed he had been banned from the property. He had outstanding warrants. He attempted to call help to assist him. He was lawfully detained. He did not comply with lawful orders. 75% of his 50 criminal entries on his record was for crimes of felonious deception; frauds, false pretenses, etc.
The body worn camera videos were released in this case. No, wait; they were leaked in this case to City Councilperson Sharon Hightower without the officer's consent. Who inside the department leaked the video? I suppose one would have to determine who had something to gain by doing so? The video is shown, the Mayor starts apologizing for this horrible case and Johnson starts depicting it as "a white officer that just decided to beat some black guy that was sitting on Mama's porch." He punched him in the face they said; he repeatedly told the officers "I'm not resisting" meaning they roughed him up for no reason. Unfortunately, the officer is the one they railroaded in the Scales' case so demands for his termination and arrest for assaulting this poor victim were immediate although criminal and internal investigation found no such evidence. They insisted the District Attorney's Office re-examine the case and change their decision and charge the officer, even voting on a resolution to do so. Oh the horror!
Then the evidence came out. I've watched this video several times. I have yet to actually see a punch in the face. I understand entirely why the cell phone became a problem. I watched the body language and heard the verbal cues that officers are trained to see and hear. I have been there before; many, many times. I saw a suspect that was refusing to comply therefore by definition of the law was resisting regardless of what he was saying. We now know that the suspect was attempting to grab items off of the officer's utility belts and had one of the officers in a position to break her arm. That would constitute not only an assault on a police officer (which he has been convicted of before) but a felony assault had she suffered even the slightest injury. Could the officer's use of profanity be a violation of departmental policy; yes. A firing offense; absolutely not given the heightened state of the incident. Were there actions in the video I would have criticism of; yes. However, these are actions that do not in any way constitute a criminal offense, give reason to eliminate the criminal actions of the suspect or warrant elimination of the charges and certainly not worthy of an apology by the Mayor of Greensboro. More importantly, there was nothing in that video to warrant the resignation (forced dismissal) of either officer; nothing! The District Attorney's office basically told the Council to take a hike,
By applying constant and undue pressure since the day of Wayne Scott's appointment, Nelson Johnson with help from his "allies within the department" have unfairly rendered Chief Scott unable to maintain morale and confidence in the GPD chain of command.
In my opinion Councilperson Sharon Hightower violated the law by her role in leaking the video.
City Manager Jim Westmoreland has not been able to shake his fear of Nelson Johnson and has not supported Chief Scott in an effective manner. He has given in to demands of dismissing charges on criminals without allowing legitimate, qualified judicial officials to rule on cases and determine the lawfulness of arrests that Magistrates have already found probable cause for. His background, education and training is in Civil Engineering not Public Administration. He is not qualified for the position he is in and demonstrates a lack of backbone when dealing with civic agitators.
Mayor Vaughn's stances have veered noticeably to the left this past year. Her very obvious partnership with Nelson Johnson (even causing one local reporter to describe hand signals between the two during council meetings) has allowed external corruption to infiltrate City Hall.
All of these things have conspired to leave our Police Chief between the proverbial "rock and a hard place". He has no support from above; NONE. His troops now have no confidence in being treated fairly as they have seen time and time again the past several years an outside agitator controlling discipline over and over and over. The same agitator that stood by former Officer AJ Blake when the department disciplined him for an assault. The same agitator that defended gang leader ( now Federal prisoner) Jorge Cornell against prosecution by the Greensboro Police Department. The entire chain of command who originally investigated this current case of an "innocent guy checking for a dog under his mother's garage door with a shovel" are now on pins and needles wondering if they are the next sacrificial lambs.
Low morale? How about NO morale.
Like it or not Nancy, Nelson, Sharon and Jim, the city needs its' police department. We are about to lose ours. High Point is ready to accept and attract lateral transfers with a matching salary offer. Winston-Salem, who now offers 100% retirement as well as the state supplement is looking to hire large numbers of officers. Both would consider it ideal to hire officers already trained beyond state standards as Greensboro officers are. We are already suffering high amounts of attrition. Most officers are looking elsewhere even if it means changing professions. Greensboro has had trouble filling recent recruit classes. How much longer before we have to lower standards once again to attract not just qualified candidates but any candidates at all?
Nelson Johnson and his buddies don't give a damn. They want what they want; a coup that ends with Johnson completely controlling the city's police department as well as City Council. He has the Mayor. How much longer before he forces the weak City Manager to do his ultimate bidding.
Solution? The citizens of Greensboro have to care. They have to stop their politically apathetic existence and rise against this coup. The city is suffering; highest food stamp usage, highest rate of citizens out of the work force and second highest rate of poverty. We have the highest property taxes to go with all of this. Nothing positive has come from our council in several years.
Mayor Vaughn is complicit in enabling Nelson Johnson to infiltrate city government and affecting police department personnel decisions. Mayor Vaughn, you need to resign.
Councilperson Sharon Hightower, you have violated sate personnel laws and you are protecting the internal source of the video leak. Councilperson Hightower, you need to resign.
City Manager Jim Westmoreland, you have been complicit in assisting Nelson Johnson in his attempts to control discipline within the Greensboro Police Department and have not protected Chief Wayne Scott from Johnson's constant and persistent efforts to undermine and subvert his position as leader of the Greensboro Police Department. You are complicit in reducing the morale and confidence in city administration of the dedicated law enforcement officers and civilian personnel of the Greensboro Police Department. Because of your incompetence and lack of support for city personnel in general and the police department in particular you need to resign; you should be terminated.
There are other concerned citizens in Greensboro that can point to other examples of corruption. This example means the most to me and all those officers who have retired and help build the tradition and excellent reputation of the Greensboro Police Department. We are not going to stand idly by and allow the most notorious civil agitator in Greensboro history and his minions to destroy our police department simply for his own personal gain. Citizens of Greensboro, please stand up and stop this hostile takeover before you have no department to protect you.