Posted: September 10th, 2014 | By: John Hinton
Winston-Salem and Greensboro are taking steps to improve relations between their police forces and local residents to keep the cities from experiencing the problems of Ferguson, Mo., the cities’ mayors said Monday, Sept. 8, 2014.
“If something like that happens, you put information out and don’t try to hide things,” Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said. “The key is being proactive and have communications early on rather than when something happens.”
Joines and Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan appeared together at Wake Forest School of Law for a discussion, “A Tale of Two Cities,” as part of the law school’s State and Local Government Course.
They spent time talking about the unrest that followed the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.
About 40 people, mostly law-school students, attended the event.
Moderator Don Vaughan (’79) asked both the mayors for their reactions to the Ferguson police shooting.
Don Vaughan, an adjunct professor at the law school, is Nancy Vaughan’s husband.
Nancy Vaughan said that every officer in the Greensboro Police Department’s patrol division wears a body camera that videotape interactions. Police in Ferguson are also now equipped with body cameras.
“Clearly if you have an incident on camera, it gives people an idea of what actually occurred,” Vaughan said.
About a fourth of Winston-Salem police officers have body cameras, Joines said, and the city plans to equip the rest of its officers.
Vaughan mentioned the controversy in Greensboro regarding whether the video footage from the cameras are public records or personnel records withheld from the public’s view. Greensboro police officials consider the videotape footage as personnel records.
“The technology has outpaced the law,” Vaughan said. “As a city, we have been going round and round on this. There has been no agreement.”
The city of Winston-Salem is making progress in hiring more minority police officers, Joines said. A lack of diversity in the police department was cited as an issue in Ferguson.
Joines mentioned the city’s scholarship program for students at historically black colleges and university. Under that program, the city pays tuition and fees. In turn, the student enrolls in the police department’s recruit school after graduation.
In addition to Ferguson, Joines and Vaughan talked about economic development. The cities are working together to strengthen their economies, and they praised their cities’ investment in their downtowns.
Vaughan mentioned how the Piedmont Triad International Airport is economic engine for Greensboro. Honda Aircraft Co. is producing its Honda corporate jet at its 600,000-square-foot facility on a 130-acre site near the airport.
The Winston-Salem Alliance, a nonprofit economic-development group, has committed to pay $100 a job as an economic incentive to the company for every Honda employee who lives in Forsyth County, Joines said. The company has about 1,000 local employees. Joines is the alliance’s president.
The cities have worked together on other projects and no longer compete against each other to land a company, the mayors said.
“We have a gentlemen’s agreement that we will not fish in each other’s ponds,” Joines said.
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