James Harper, Special to the NNPA from the Daytona Times –
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLU) is conducting an investigation of the Daytona Beach Police Department, The Daytona Times has learned.
The local chapter of the ACLU has volunteers scheduled at various venues, passing out copies of a questionnaire on the police practices of the Daytona Beach Police Department (DBPD), according to George Griffin, president of the Volusia-Flagler ACLU.
Griffin said the ACLU is not interested in people seeking it out to complete the survey because they want an objective sampling.
"We will have a table at Juneteenth (at Cypress Street Park on June 18), we will have volunteers at a feeding for the homeless, and we will be at the farmer’s market," said Griffin listing places where the survey will be passed out.
"By having people seek us out to complete a survey, we might skew the results by attracting people who have a "story" to tell," he said.
Number of complaints
Griffin said the ACLU has received a number of complaints about police harassment by DBPD officers.
He says the ACLU has reached out to Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood.
"Last year, we invited Chief Chitwood to an event that was to be tentatively titled ‘An evening with the ACLU,’ meant to be an informal Q&A with local leaders. Mayor (Glenn) Ritchie agreed to participate, but Chief Chitwood would not. Three or four years ago, we held a racial profiling event at Bethune-Cookman and invited the Daytona Beach police to participate. They chose not to," Griffin noted.
Similar to survey done in Orlando
Griffin said the survey being passed out was done in Orlando.
"We’ve heard complaints (about DBPC) since the inception of our local ACLU chapter, roughly seven years ago – everything from police presence during Black College Reunion to tasering policies to the lack of citizen’s oversight.
"Since we have received individual complaints, it seemed appropriate to do a survey similar to the one done in Orlando to see if the concerns raised to us are isolated or widely held," said Griffin.
Once the survey is completed, Griffin said the ACLU will compile the information and present it to the public at least in a press release, then determine what should be the next cause of action.
"That all depends on what we find. We don’t want to pre-suppose what the results will be, but we will definitely make the findings available to law enforcement, the press, and the general public regardless of the results," he continued.
ACLU fighting for ex-felons’ rights
The Volusia/Flagler Chapter of the ACLU is one of 18 chapters of the ACLU of Florida, which is a part of the national ACLU. The goal is to try to protect people’s constitutional rights and liberties, particularly those outlined in the Bill of Rights.
Locally, Griffin said the chapter has been instrumental in changing school board policy regarding harassment and bullying, and most recently helping to get the Human Rights Ordinance passed by the Volusia County Council.
Statewide, the ACLU has just filed two lawsuits against Gov. Rick Scott regarding drug testing of welfare recipients and state employees.
Griffin said the organization is gearing up for a fight for the restoration of rights for ex-felons.
"We have run several workshops to guide people through the process in the past, but since the new Scott administration has made this process more difficult, we have to do all new training as to how the process works," he added.
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