A couple of recent incidents have put North Carolina police officers in, to say the very least, an unpleasant light. The cynical could look at these incidents to justify resentment and suspicion. Fortunately, they’re aberrations.
A Greensboro police officer, Lt. Stacy Morton, was seen at a public gathering of an organization, Israel United in Christ, considered to be a racial hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center during one of the most heavily attended events of the year in the city.
The SPLC describes a growing faction within the group as both racist and anti-Semitic — viewing white people as “the devil” and speaking of Jews as “fake Jews.” Further, the group has been described as anti-police.
Police officers may worship as they please. But because they are public employees, reasonable and necessary boundaries must be observed to preserve community trust and confidence in the department. It would be just as inappropriate for a white officer to take part in a group that disparages people of color.
Morton was “separated” by a special order signed last week by Greensboro Police Chief Wayne Scott, a spokesman for the department told BH Media.
Also last week in Henderson, the seat of Vance County, a school resource officer and sheriff’s deputy, Warren Durham, was captured by a middle-school security cam body-slamming a middle-school student, twice, on the ground, then dragging him away. As the tape traveled from WRAL to social media circuits, it rightly generated public outrage.
The video reveals nothing that would have provoked the attack — as if anything could justify such a violent act against a child. “I was stunned, I was shocked,” Vance County Sheriff Curtis Brame told WRAL. “To see a child that small reminded me of one of my grandchildren.”
On Monday, Durham was fired. He will be charged with assault on a child under 12, misdemeanor child abuse and willful failure to discharge his duties, District Attorney Mike Waters said.
Police officers sometimes do misbehave in terrible ways. When they do, they need to be held to account. Not doing so erodes public trust and makes all officers look bad.
But part of the reason these incidents stand out is that they’re so unusual. For the most part, officers in our law enforcement agencies — in Winston-Salem and elsewhere in the state — serve professionally and with the utmost respect for their duties and for the public. They respond quickly when needed, especially when violence is involved.
Many police officers have been working through the Winston-Salem Police Foundation and other organizations to build community ties and benefit the underprivileged. They deserve recognition, especially in this season of giving.
On Nov. 7, Carrabba’s Italian Grill hosted an event during which Winston-Salem and Forsyth County officers served lunch to raise money for Special Olympics athletes, who were taken on a shopping trip to Academy Sports and Outdoors, WSPF president Scott Sewell told the Journal.
On Dec. 4-6, the Winston-Salem Police Department and Winston-Salem Fire Department conducted a “Toys for Tots” toy drive, collecting toys to give to community members in need.
Also on Dec. 6, “Heroes and Helpers” matched local officers with kids for a shopping spree at Target.
These activities are not aberrations, but regular occurrences.
Our police officers do work that is serious, sometimes stressful and often dangerous. They contribute to Winston-Salem being “the safest city in North Carolina,” as declared recently by WalletHub.
Let’s offer them our support, our respect and our thanks.