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Discussion connects police with formerly incarcerated men

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — Dora Mbuwayesango, the organizer, introduced DaQuan Coleman as the poster child of Operation Clean Slate at Police-Citizens Interactions: Rights & Responsibilities at Livingstone College on Saturday afternoon.

Coleman shared his story of growing up in poverty and in a single-parent household. He soon became part of a gang, wanting to fit in.

“We didn’t have too many ways to show our masculinity, except for with violence,” Coleman said.

Eventually his crimes caught up to him and he was jailed numerous times. He was in jail when his little brother died and as his mother struggled with the loss of her son as well as when his son was born. 

The birth of his son transformed his life, Coleman said. Despite others thinking he would return to crime, he went on to get his GED and has started classes at Livingstone College last week.

“My story, my mission is ‘don’t buy into image they’re selling you,’” Coleman said. “Buy into the image that’s in your heart. Buy into the image that has been in you since birth. Buy into the image that your family wants to see, that your community wants to see.”

Salahudeen Abdallah and Omari Holmes spoke about their time incarcerated as well.

Abdallah said he began “hustling” when he was 11 and spent his 20s locked up in state and federal prison. He said he never had anyone keep him accountable.

Abdallah’s advice to the crowd of Livingstone College students and other community activists was to give kids a chance to make money — washing a car or mowing a lawn — because it prevents them from committing crimes trying to get some income.

Holmes said he was a good student, but he made a mistake and spent ages 18 to 29 in jail for an armed robbery.

He said serving time helped mold him, but it doesn’t hold him back. He commended the resources in the city that allowed him to become a member of society and recommended that others help those who were formerly incarcerated.

“We do have to help one another,” Holmes said. “We are not bad individuals.”

Salisbury’s Deputy Police Chief Shon Barnes said he was not a good child either, often getting in trouble, but he had male family members that kept him in line.

He shared how he got to be a police officer and things he learned about implicit bias and racial profiling. Barnes spoke about Salisbury’s focus on community policing. Barnes said community policing is not a skill that is obtained.

“Police don’t solve crime,” Barnes said. “Without the community, you are nothing.”

He admitted the police aren’t always right, but when community policing is in place, it’s easier to be honest and admit mistakes.

He said, no matter what, the police and citizens are going to exist.

“Community isn’t going anywhere,” Barnes said. “Police aren’t going anywhere.”

Barnes commended Salisbury for its decrease in crime. Asking the attendees to guess how many homicides there have been in the last year. Ten? Five? Barnes said “one.”

He said it is because Salisbury citizens are looking out for one another.

One is too many still, he said, but he’s concentrating on going from good to great with the Salisbury Police Department.

Coleman gave a final piece of advice directed to his fellow students: Don’t have open bottles of liquor. Do not have paraphernalia in your car. It will give the police probable cause to search a car, he said.

“Do not get put in the system,” Coleman said. “It’s hard to get out.” 



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