By Yasmine Regester, Special to the NNPA from the Carolina Peacemaker –
GREENSBORO (NNPA) - A Greensboro police captain has been placed on administrative duties after filing grievances on behalf of himself and other police officers. A press conference regarding the recent actions taken by the Greensboro Police Department against Captain Charles Cherry was held June 24 by the Pulpit Forum at New Light Missionary Baptist Church in Greensboro.
Cherry is the commander of GPD’s Eastern Division and has served the department for the last 23 years. Cherry’s suspension comes at the beginning of Greensboro Justice Summer, a grassroots movement organized by Beloved Community Center along with other faith based and social activism groups to organize and inform the public of their rights and to address issues surrounding the Greensboro Police Department.
Cherry was placed on administrative duty on June 7, pending a Fitness for Duty evaluation based on the following reasons: 1. writing and submitting grievances on behalf of several officers; 2. an inability to accept reasonable responses from department supervisors, and 3. his physical reactions in front of subordinate employees.
On June 9, Cherry was prohibited from the Maple Street police station and squad line-ups for the Eastern Division or any other divisions. He has also been stripped of his badge and gun. Cherry must also be evaluated by the department psychologist before being permitted to return to active duty.
Cherry sent an email to his employees on June 17 giving the reasons why he was placed under evaluation via the recommendation of a Bureau Commander. He also provided explanations of his actions. Cherry was accused of writing and submitting grievances from several officers who expressed the need for his assistance in writing such grievances. In the memo Cherry states that doing so was not in violation of Departmental Directives or city policy, however, it was one of the reasons provided as to why he is undergoing a Fit for Duty Evaluation.
Cherry told the Peacemaker he felt his employees and the community have a right to know why he was placed under Fit for Duty Evaluation. “I sent the memo to explain to my employees, and I also want the community to know because I serve them. I feel like they have a right to know what is going on.”
The pastors of the Pulpit Forum are citing racial discrimination and double standards within the GPD, which they say is the basis of the content in the submitted grievances. In a press statement released by the Pulpit Forum the pastors state, “This devious and unconscionable action is about covering up the culture of corruption and double standards within the GPD, pure and simple. It is a retaliatory measure…”
They also do not believe that hiring a new police chief will help alleviate the situation and are concerned the city will try to sweep the issues out the door with Police Chief Tim Bellamy when he retires on July 31.
The Pulpit Forum has written letters to the city manager’s office with a list of 97 questions addressing issues they believe need to be discussed publicly by the police department. Members of the forum have also spoken before city council on several occasions but have yet to receive any response to their list of questions.
Rev. Cardes Brown of New Light Missionary Baptist Church and president of the NAACP Greensboro branch, has been quite vocal in addressing members of city council as well as Mayor Bill Knight. Brown had been a supporter of Police Chief Tim Bellamy when Knight made a statement during a political forum in 2009 that he believed the chief only got his position because he was Black.
At the press conference, Brown stated that he owed Mayor Knight an apology for challenging his statement.
“I first challenged the statement because of Bellamy’s credentials. But now I do believe that Bellamy was made chief because he was Black and he could be used to show favor on the force. I believe Bellamy was willing to go along with things requested of him,” said Brown.
Rev. Nelson Johnson of Beloved Community Center added, “I think the apology from the Mayor was called for, because when you are placed in a high position such as mayor, you can’t play with stuff like that. But I do believe the chief is incidental to this.” The pastors and supporters demanded an apology from the mayor on more than one occasion but never got a response.
Johnson explained that he has access to several officers’ grievances because he and Rev. Brown have been asked to be spiritual advisors to them. “These grievances cite racial discrimination, harassment and hostile work environments. I think an interview with the city manager would be helpful because that is where everything has stopped,” said Johnson.
According to Johnson, city manager Rashad Young has a stack of grievances currently on his desk and the majority of them were filed by Blacks and other minorities. Under city policy, Young is required to respond in a timeframe of 20 days per complaint filed.
According to Michael Speedling, Assistant City Manager of Public Safety, Young is in the process of responding to the grievances as well as getting a response to the 97 questions presented by the Pulpit Forum.