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Jack Connery: Another view of Salisbury

I moved here five years ago and found Salisbury a delightful place to live: two live theaters, a class act symphony, two colleges and several high schools where I could get my fill of sports and a beautiful downtown with a neighborhood filled with historic buildings and homes.

I found race relations to be good and that was reinforced at a recent 2020 planning meeting where all appeared to be well. I have joined a crowd of very interesting and well-educated people whom I enjoy very much. I’ve found a beautiful downtown church that helps fill my spiritual needs. At the end of last year, I went through the Citizens Academy where I found all is well in the city. The only things I found wrong were a lack of employment and the wrong party was in power in the state government.

What more could I ask for? I attended the City Council meeting on Feb. 7 and was awakened to a whole new Salisbury.

My initial impressions faded into the background as I heard at least 20 persons, mostly black, one after the other, appeal to the council to stop the police department “no-knock warrant” policy, which, when implemented recently, resulted in the police shooting and killing of Ferguson Laurent Jr. Terms like “militarization of the police department,” “living in fear,” and “mistreatment by police” were common among the appeals. Their statements included past complaints that fell on deaf ears, fears of voting and tiring of being considered second class citizens.

It is sad, almost tragic, that so many in the black community have lost trust and faith in the police department and vice versa. It seems that racism is very much alive in Salisbury. As I watched the faces of each council member, their expressions told me their hands were tied. Their only answer was, “we have written to the attorney general.”

At the break, I saw the chief of police, whom I had met during the Citizens Academy, and asked three questions about no-knock warrants, and to each I got the answer “I cannot comment about that.” During the last half of the meeting, the chief presented an update on the police department, its hiring, its training and its activities. Not once did he mention no-knock warrants.

I don’t understand why Salisbury, as a separate government entity, is so tied to the apron strings of the state. Is it a mandate that all communities employ a no-knock policy? Why don’t we just say that “we won’t use no-knock warrants?” Or if we have to use this policy, treat it like a search warrant and require approval of a judge. If we were to do this, and get serious about community policing, I think we would see some changes.

All of the problems presented in the presentations — distrust of police and city government, fear of police, racism, mistreatment by police, crime in neighborhoods, appeals not addressed, fear of dying — present a quite different Salisbury than I found five years ago. Maybe that is part of the problem — people like me are not aware of this side of Salisbury. One council member did not  know of these things happening to any white people. There is definitely a lot of room for council and community action. Each of the petitions contained the appeal “Let’s create change in Salisbury, let us be the catalyst for change.”

That’s city business. It’s community business too.

Jack Connery is a resident of Salisbury.

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