Blacks Should Protest NAACP Insult
2/16/2017 11:36:39 AM
By Barney Barney
Reading a recent newspaper report about the members asked to serve on North Charleston Police Department’s Citizen Advisory Commission on Police Relations got me so incensed I had to call North Charleston Branch NAACP President Ed Bryant. I called Bryant because the report indicated his organization was not represented on the panel.
The North Charleston Branch NAACP has been among the most vocal and consistent critics of police conduct in the city for decades. Reportedly, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey used his option to make an appointment to the panel to name Charleston Branch NAACP President Dot Scott to the panel, a wise move on his part. But omitting the North Charleston Branch NAACP speaks volumes to me.
The 25-member commission which is made up of 20 city council appointees – two from each of the 10 council districts - a mayoral appointee and high school student appointees from various schools in the city will perform several functions including reviewing police policies, traffic stops and internal investigations data, hearing residents’ complaints and helping to recruit new officers.
Bryant is among many critics who say the development process that produced the commission still has not provided a viable police review board for the citizens. He wasn’t upset the North Charleston Branch isn’t represented on the commission. Well, I’m upset for him! I don’t have a problem with the appointments made. I just think that if Summey chose to appoint a member of a local NAACP branch to the commission, it should have been a member of the North Charleston Branch NAACP.
I think Summey’s asking Scott to participate on the commission is a brilliant move. Scott, who is a North Charleston resident, also has been a long time, consistent critic of the police department and I think she brings a lot to the table. But excluding the North Charleston Branch NAACP as a participant when another NAACP branch member was asked, I think, is insulting to the North Charleston branch and blacks in general.
Now Summey ain’t stupid. But obviously he thinks we all are. What’s that old saying about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer? Summey’s seems to be doing just that by appointing Scott to the commission. Again, it’s a good move. But in doing so he’s telling the North Charleston Branch NAACP to kiss his grits. I think that’s unacceptable and should not go unchallenged. I said as much to Bryant last week. He said he’ll deal with it.
We had a pretty good discussion about the issue– just me and him. We cussed and fussed, then kissed and made up as we always do. Ed and I often disagree on method. The brother is totally dedicated to advocating for equal justice and civil rights and he’s a smart guy who’s been on the front lines of the struggle for many years. Under his leadership the North Charleston Branch NAACP has filed more challenges to police conduct than any other civil rights organization in the state. And it’s been nationally recognized for those efforts. But sometimes, I think Ed just drops the ball. This is one of those times. There’s just no way Summey and North Charleston should get way with that insult.
Bryant said he doesn’t see a need for the branch to have a presence on the commission. “The police department has some systemic problems and this commission has no power to change that. We still have not gotten a report from the The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) and what we really want is an evaluation of polices and practices anyway,” he said last November. Black Lives Matter – Charleston SC President Muhiyyidin D’baha said, “In its current form this is a recommendation board, with no authority to hold NCPD accountable to the community ... and does not reflect the demand for greater community oversight of the NCPD.”
I think they’re right. The commission will be North Charleston Police Department’s second incarnation of a police review board. The first one died on the vine after being established during former Chief Jon Zumalt’s administration. Its impotence, I think, contributed to the culture that led to office Michael Slager killing of Walter Scott in 2015.
The report I read quoted former ACLU President Daniel O’Neal who volunteered to serve on the commission saying that the commission has the potential to evolve into something viable. I agree with that. If you’re at the table you can “speak truth to power”, as the young folks say.
I understand where Bryant’s coming from in choosing to spend his energy on other things besides Summey’s choice of an appointment to the commission. Indeed there are bigger fish to fry, and I think the members identified will address the issues that come before them as best they can. But I think the black community and its partners in the struggle for equality and justice ought to call Summey and North Charleston out on its oversight. The brothers and sister on North Charleston City Council also should be made aware the oversight hasn’t been ignored.
There are a lot of moving parts to the development of the commission. My common sense tells me the decision to ask those folks to serve wasn’t made in a vacuum. Folks met and talked about who would be asked to serve. That a representative from the North Charleston Branch NAACP wasn’t asked to serve is inexcusable. Especially since a member of another NAACP branch was asked! Again in my mind, North Charleston told all us black folks to kiss their grits. It don’t matter what we think because they can just x-us (cross us) right out of the game.
Well I say even if we can’t fix the problem, we sure can raise hell about it. We never should retreat silently into the darkness without voicing some objection. We never should suffer in silence as those who discriminate against us and persecute us pull tricks like this. It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.