Local News

Chief addresses police standards in Fayetteville

06 Police Chief engagementEditor's Note: This article has been updated to correctly annotate that NC General Statutes do specifically address the use of deadly force.

New York banned chokeholds. Seattle required de-escalation training. Los Angeles restricted shooting at moving vehicles. But those reforms did not stop police from killing Eric Garner, Charleena Lyles or Ryan Twyman, who died when officers used the very tactics that the changes were supposed to prevent.

Activists say these realizations have created unprecedented momentum for law enforcement reform and some radical ideas like defunding and abolishing police.

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a conservative non-profit think tank that focuses on domestic policy and urban affairs, notes there are good reasons to be skeptical of many of the most popular reforms being advanced. MI suggests that policy makers should consider police reforms aligned with recruiting, training, reliable data and the promotion of body worn cameras.

Up & Coming Weekly asked Fayetteville Chief of Police Gina V. Hawkins if department policy specifies that the use of deadly force is the last resort.

“The level of force used must be such that it is objectively reasonable and necessary,” she responded, noting that the use of force is detailed in North Carolina General Statute §15A-401. According to the Statute, use of deadly force is justified for a police officer to "defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly phsyical force ..." An officer may also use deadly force to "prevent the escape from custody of a person he reasonably believes is attempting to escape by means of a deadly weapon ..."

Hawkins said that “an officer has a duty to intervene to prevent or stop the use of excessive force by another officer when it is safe and reasonable to do so.”

In her written responses, Hawkins referred repeatedly to best practices without elaborating.

“I am heavily involved with the recruitment and hiring process, and in seeking the newest and most updated training that follows these best practices,” she said.

“Oversight, and following the best practices, ensures that we are developing an officer that is well rounded, professional, and constantly learning,” she added.

Mayor Mitch Colvin addressed the issue of police brutality in an Up & Coming Weekly opinion piece last week. “While our city has certainly had its problems with racial and social bias, to include aggressive policing in predominately Black communities, we have come a long way over the last 8 years,” Colvin wrote. The city began revamping its policing policies when former police chief Harold Medlock invited the U.S. Justice Department to evaluate the FPD in 2012/2013. “Many of the changes made were proactive and allowed us to get a head start on the necessary changes,” Colvin added.

He pointed out that the city established a Citizens Advisory Board to assist in building better relationships with law enforcement and the communities they serve. The mayor supports the FPD’s requirement that officers wear body cameras. The theory of using body cameras is that police officers will be less likely to commit misconduct if they understand their actions are being recorded. North Carolina state law requires that camera footage be made public only when ordered by a judge.

“By the time it goes through that judicial process, the trust is broken with the community,” Colvin said.

“Until governments invest in supporting communities rather than criminalizing and controlling them, the violence will not stop,” said John Raphling, senior U.S. criminal legal system researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Pictured Above: Poliece Chief Gina Hawkins interacts with children during a community engagement event. (Photo Courtesey Fayetteville Police Department). 

New Dogwood Festival chief named

05 Saragrace SnipesSarahgrace Snipes is the new executive director of the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival. She succeeds Malia Allen who resigned last summer. Snipes was previously associated with the North Carolina Azalea Festival in Wilmington. "It is an honor to be able to play a part in the Fayetteville community as the next Executive Director of the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival,” Snipes said in a statement. “After a long and difficult year of the pandemic, I am looking forward to bringing joy to Fayetteville's citizens and businesses through our events.” The Dogwood Festival has been a Fayetteville tradition for 39 years. It is usually a three-day festival celebrated during the 4th weekend of April. It went on hiatus last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A mini event scheduled last month was also cancelled.

Local government offices, libraries are open

04 Cumberland county courthouse2City and county government buildings have reopened to the public in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Face coverings are still required in all facilities, and social distancing is in effect. In-person services had been limited since March 2020 to protect the health of residents and employees. “I am proud of our employees for their dedication to the County’s mission of providing services and how they adapted to the new work challenges during the prolonged pandemic,” said County Manager Amy Cannon. City Hall, the county courthouse and the eight Cumberland County Public Library locations have resumed service. The libraries are open for 45-minute sessions Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. At 15 minutes before the top of each hour, customers are asked to leave the buildings so staff can clean and wipe down high-touch areas. The libraries continue to offer curbside pick-up service at all branches. Meeting rooms, in-person programming, Book-a-Librarian sessions and the Mobile Outreach Service are not available. The Department of Social Services on Ramsey Street is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Citizens may continue to apply for public assistance programs (Food and Nutrition, Medicaid, Child Care and Work First) remotely without visiting the building. Information on the various ways to apply for assistance is available at ccdssnc.com.

Fast-growing North Carolina will add another congressional seat

03 USCapitolBuildingHC1611 sourceNorth Carolina has grown large enough over the last decade to earn a 14th congressional seat, the U.S. Census Bureau announced April 27 in a news release. That seat will be contested during next year’s 2022 congressional elections.

The announcement came as the U.S. Census Bureau completed data processing for the first 2020 Census results. Its state population counts are used to apportion the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the 50 states. As population increases or decreases in each state, the number of seats to represent it changes. North Carolina was one of five states to pick up a seat, while Texas picked up two. Seven states lost a congressional seat, including New York and California.

Complete data is expected to be released Aug. 16, paving the way for the General Assembly to begin creating new maps for the 14 congressional districts, all 120 N.C. House seats, and all 50 N.C. Senate seats.

The 14 seats are the most the state has had. North Carolina had 13 seats in the House from 1813 to 1843 and again since 2003. In total, North Carolina now shows an overall population of 10.45 million people. The 2010 figure was 9.5 million. North Carolina remains the ninth-most-populous state and grew by 918,465 people, or 9.6%, between 2010 an 2020. N.C.’s growth outpaced the U.S. as a whole, which had a 7.4% population growth rate.

The General Assembly has sole authority over redistricting. The governor can neither sign nor veto redistricting maps.

“Redistricting can be a tough process under any circumstances, but it gets even more complicated when you add in a new congressional seat,” said Mitch Kokai, John Locke Foundation senior political analyst. “Rather than tweaking existing district lines, lawmakers have to decide how and where to create a whole new district. The ripple effects could be felt in congressional districts across the state.”

As of now the 2022 primaries are set to take place on March 8. As reported by The Associated Press, North Carolina election dates for 2022 likely won’t be altered despite anticipated delays in receiving data needed to perform the once-a-decade redistricting, the General Assembly’s top Republicans said recently. Candidate filing is planned for December.

With these numbers, North Carolina will also have 16 presidential electors, up from 15, beginning in 2024. The Electoral College is the group of presidential electors required by the U.S. Constitution to form every four years for the sole purpose of electing the president and vice president. Each state appoints electors, equal in number to its congressional delegation.

North Carolina has eight Republican members of the U.S. House and five Democrats, after courts ordered new maps drawn for the 2020 election. Beginning with elections in 2014 and again 2016, and 2018, North Carolina elected 10 Republican members of the U.S. House and three members who were Democrats.

In examining the early data it appears to Carolina Journal, and this is speculation, that the best-case scenario for Democrats would be a 9-5 GOP map that leaves all Democrat incumbents with blue-leaning districts, and the GOP protecting all eight of its member districts, while drawing a GOP-friendly 14th seat. The worst case would be a new map in which voters would be likely to select 10 GOP members and four Democrats to represent the state.

According to Cook Political, when it comes to control of the U.S. House:

“Republicans’ biggest redistricting weapons are Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina — and they could conceivably pick up all five seats they need for the majority from those four alone.”

Cook Political predicts the GOP would pick up 1.5 House seats from NC, which would reflect either a 9-5 or 10-4 map. UVA Center for Center for Politics predicts nationally the GOP will gain a minimum of one seat out of North Carolina.

In a 10-4 scenario, it is possible the districts of Rep. Alma Adams in the Charlotte area, Reps. David Price and Deborah Ross in the Triangle area, and Rep. G.K. Butterfield’s eastern North Carolina district would be largely retained for Democrats, with Republicans targeting the Greensboro-area district of first-term Democrat Rep. Kathy Manning.

The new 14th District could possibly be carved out of the Charlotte suburbs, including parts of Mecklenburg, Cleveland and Gaston Counties, but those decisions can’t begin to take shape until county-by-county numbers are released in late summer. House Speaker Tim Moore, among many others, is rumored to be thinking of running for Congress. He is from Cleveland County. First elected to the General Assembly in 2002, Moore is serving his fourth term as the presiding officer of the House and is the longest-serving Republican House speaker in North Carolina history.

With heavy population growth on North Carolina’s southern coast, another possibility is that the 7th District could be more of a coastal district, with a new district taking in some of Wake County and perhaps anchored in Johnston. This is speculation that could change once county-by-county population numbers are release late in the summer.

Nationally, Republicans are expected to make small gains through congressional redistricting. If the 2020 election were to be held again under the new apportionment, Joe Biden would have won with 303 Electoral College votes, rather than 306.

Apportionment has made Texas the big winner of two new congressional seats. Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Montana and Oregon all picked up one new member of Congress.

Losing a congressional seat after a population drop were New York, California, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This is the first time California has ever lost a seat in the U.S. House due to a population decrease.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from its original online posting to reflect that the information provided is based on data research and the writer’s analysis.

What you don't know can hurt you and everyone else

02 USCapitolFlagsHC1507 source 1Hip! Hip! Hooray! Yippee! Yippee!

Something both positive and bipartisan is floating around in Congress, and it deserves robust discussion and serious consideration.

I fell in love with civics in the 9th grade, and it has shaped my life. Civics is the study of how government works and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

In an authoritarian system, civics is not so important, because the government is going to do what it wants no matter what the citizens think since they have few rights or responsibilities.

In a democratic system like ours, however, it is critical that citizens understand what government is supposed to do and what it is actually doing. It is critical as well that we understand our own rights and responsibilities and what it means to be a citizen of the United States, including our obligation to vote.

Civics has long since fallen on hard times, though. As of 2018, only 9 states require a year of civics education and 10 states have no civics requirements at all. Blessedly, North Carolina falls into the former category.

A survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that only 26% of Americans can identify our 3 branches of government. I should not have been, of course, but I was stunned late last year — yes, stunned! — when a newly elected U.S. Senator, Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., identified the 3 branches as, “You know, the House, the Senate, and the executive.” Maybe, he just played too much football.

I have no idea if Sen. Tuberville’s civics ignorance was the tipping point, but two of his colleagues are sponsoring legislation to invest $1 billion annually in civics and history education in K-12 schools throughout our country. Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, say the Educating for Democracy Act would help future generations of Americans gain a deeper understanding of the workings of government and what their obligations are as citizens of the United States. It would provide grants to states, non-profits, educational institutions and strengthen scholarship programs. A companion bill, also bipartisan, has been filed in the U.S. House.

The legislation would clearly fill a huge void in our nation, but it is not without controversy. Some of civics is clear and factual, particularly the structure of government, federal, state and local, and its mechanics, executive, legislative and judicial. Those are just the facts, ma’am.
How we use government becomes more interpretive. Think of the debate now raging over the use of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate. The filibuster exists, but how it is employed is highly controversial.

The same is true of history. As for the history component of the legislation, we all know the American Civil War occurred between 1861-1865, and that its effects haunt us to this day. How we perceive that conflict, its background and aftermath, though, is individual and personal and often at odds with the perception of others. Ditto for the American experience in Vietnam and the January 6th insurrection in Washington. These events occurred, but many of us interpret them differently.

All of that said, members of Congress are addressing a void in our national knowledge that has swallowed up Americans’ sense of our country and our place in it.

What we do not know — and do not attempt to learn — threatens the future of our democracy. Much has been written over the last decade about this threat.

The only way to combat it is to educate Americans about where we came from and how we participate as citizens.

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