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NAACP calls for civilian review of police

By Shelley Smith
ssmith@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY ó The Salisbury-Rowan branch of the NAACP has called on the city of Salisbury to form a civilian review board to investigate complaints related to the Salisbury Police Department.
Dr. Bryant Norman Jr., president of the local chapter, wrote a letter voicing the organizationís concerns on the operation of the department and its policies.
Over the past three years, Norman said, the NAACP has received more than 15 various complaints about the Salisbury Police Department, and he and others have spoken to City Manager Dave Treme and Mayor Susan Kluttz about the complaints.
ěSo, they know what our concerns are,î he said.
Normanís letter listed the following complaints:
ěThere is no uniform or equitable practice of personnel policies with all employees with the Salisbury Police Department;
ěThere appears to be a disparity in the hiring and promotion of minority officers in the Salisbury Police Department;
ěThe Salisbury Police Department does not reflect the demographics of the city of Salisbury, and all officers are not held to the same professional standards.î
One particular complaint involves an interracial couple ó a black man and white woman ó who both worked at the Police Department. The couple came to the NAACP executive committee with an attorney after they had both been fired, Norman said.
The firings were flawed, Norman argued, because they were based on a policy that apparently doesnít exist.
ěThey were saying that because he outranked her, that violated the policy manual,î Norman said. ěI went through the policy manual I downloaded, and I didnít see anything about that.
ěItís not clarified in the policy manual.î
Norman said the woman was later reinstated.
The NAACP, or National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, also says Salisbury police officers ěhave the privilege to act as they chooseî when dealing with city residents.
Bryantís letter says many face what he called the ěcatch allî charge of resisting arrest when they question officers.
Other complaints received by the NAACP include the case of Felicia Gibson, who was arrested when she didnít comply with an officerís order to stop videotaping a traffic stop from her front porch. Gibson was convicted of obstructing an officer.
ěThere are a lot of instances that have gone down over there,î Norman said. ěWe appreciate the police, but the thing is, a lot of things have been done, and hasnít been transparent because the police investigate themselves.
ěI donít care what the situation is, it always comes back that they acted in their parameters of duty. Thatís not always true.î
Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins said Tuesday heís never received any formal notification from the NAACP about the allegations cited, and he wasnít aware of the organizationís concerns until a Post reporter gave him a copy of the letter.
ěThereís a lot of questions that I have, and, to me, it was rather vague, and Iím not sure specifically what Mr. Norman is alluding to,î Collins said.
Collins said the alleged ěracial disparitiesî in the letter is ěoppositeî of how he operates as chief.
ěWhatever I can look into and whatever I can speak to, then I will gladly do that,î he said. ěI donít operate in any way that Iíve got something to hide. Sometimes I can speak, just depends on personnel laws and circumstances.î
Collins said he is unfamiliar with civilian review boards but plans to research them further and make an official statement about the NAACPís request.
He said the department has a grievance system in place and goes through different steps and panels ěfor it to be reviewed and make sure the decisions are sound and actions taken are appropriate.î
Collins said, though, that because the concerns of the NAACP are ěvery vague,î it doesnít give him ěmuch to look into.î
ěAnd I would love the opportunity to know more about what the letter is referring to.î
Kluttz said the idea of a citizen review board has been proposed several times since sheís been mayor, usually after a high-profile incident has occurred. She said sheís satisfied with the way personnel issues are currently handled by the city, but plans to give the suggestion some thought.
ěI have full confidence in our city manager, and I also have full confidence in our new police chief,î Kluttz said. ěBoth people I respect and trust very much.î
Past City Council members have declined to form citizen review boards when the idea came up, and Kluttz said that in her opinion, such a board is probably not necessary.
ěAdding another level of government would make things more complicated,î she said.
Treme said he sent the letter from the NAACP to council members Tuesday and will prepare a response to Normanís request.
Norman said the local chapter of the NAACP has never requested the civilian review board before, but the request has support from the state and national levels of the NAACP.
ěWeíre talking about giving a fair representation of the demographics,î Norman said. ěAnd holding everyone, all the police officers, to the same professional standards.
ěWeíve discussed this off and on over the last couple of years. We felt this was probably the proper time to do it because we want to do it before something else happens.î
Collins says he will look into the allegations and hopes the NAACP will come forward with more details.
ěI work really hard to do all I can to build positive relationships with our community, and Iím looking for the positive in everything we do,î he said. ě(I am) trying to do everything I can to build a positive rapport.
ěThis is certainly not the thing that I would condone if there were some validity to what they said.î
Contact reporter Shelley Smith at 704-797-4246. Emily Ford contributed.

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