2 big Rhino and N&R myths voters should be clear on

The new draft video policy, written by City Attorney Tom Carruthers, hadn’t been read in advance by the council, much less by the public, when it was presented at Monday’s council briefing. — Allen Johnson, News & Record

 

GREENSBORO, NC — It’s funny — and by funny, I mean sad — that journalists purporting to be doing some fact checking, are themselves perpetrating bad information.

There are two myths both The Rhino Times and the News & Record are advancing about city council candidates that voters should know about.

Myth 1: “City Council” sided with police after reviewing the Jose Charles body camera video.

After the Police Community Review Board reviewed police body camera video of an encounter between Greensboro Police and fifteen year-old Jose Charles that left the teenager with a bloodied face, the mother of the boy was sent a letter from the Review Board that said the board disagreed with the findings of an internal police professional standards review that had previously cleared the officers of any wrong.

That determination sent the review to the City Manager. The City Manager’s decision was not made public, but city council took it upon themselves to review the video. Four of nine council members, Justin Outling, Marikay Abuzuaiter, Nancy Hoffmann, and Mayor Nancy Vaughan held a press conference to say that, after watching some videos (whether they saw the entirety of what the Review Board saw is not clear), they — personally, as individuals — said they thought the police officers did nothing wrong.

That was a minority of council members. Neither city council nor “the City” took a position one way or another and the News & Record and the Rhino Times are misrepresenting the truth when they write otherwise.

Myth 2: Nancy Vaughan and Justin Outling wrote the city’s police body camera policy.

The police body camera policy was approved out of the blue at a meeting where it was not on the agenda and where Vaughan would not allow public comment. (She said comments were not allowed at work sessions, mistaken about the fact that she was presiding over a scheduled public meeting at where the public can comment, not a work session.)

Council members had not read the policy when now-resigned council member Jamal Fox moved that it be adopted. It was in the hands of the City attorney who, by all indications, authored it by copying large parts from a just-passed state law. Allen Johnson of the News & Record said council’s hurried attempts to read what the city attorney handed up to them and were about to vote on looked like they were “cramming” for a quiz. The city attorney even alluded to having just finished it the night before and Johnson said so too.

The new draft video policy, written by City Attorney Tom Carruthers, hadn’t been read in advance by the council, much less by the public, when it was presented at Monday’s council briefing.Allen Johnson, News & Record

For a while, we — the public and I, personally — took Vaughan and Outling at their word that they were working on a body camera policy, but a request for records documenting the evolution of the policy, including a request that council members search their personal email accounts, revealed no contributions by Vaughan, Outling or any other council member other than a brief early comment by Mike Barber about the direction of the policy. [UPDATE, for clarity: There was a single draft copy that bore little resemblance to the final policy written by the city attorney that had Vaughan’s and Outling’s names on it. It was provide by the city attorney’s office and was not what council adopted.]

To think that Outling and Vaughan wrote the city’s policy is to think that they never shared copies with each other, the city attorney, the police or their colleagues while drafting it and were somehow unfamiliar with it when its adoption was proposed by council member Fox. It defies belief. But that’s not the only reason to doubt they wrote the policy.

The final policy ended up identical in large portions to the state law that had passed days before. That bill, sponsored by John Faircloth (R, High Point) required consideration of 8 factors before video could be publicly viewed. Faircloth’s bill distinguished between “release” (where copies would be made available) and “view” (where selected parties could be shown video, but not possess a copy).

The 8 points, word-for-word, and the distinction between release and viewing both constituted the bulk of the city’s policy. Whoever “wrote” the city’s policy, they cribbed most of it from the new state law.

I don’t know why the News & Record and the Rhino Times would want to obscure the truth by perpetuating these two myths. Maybe they are just lazy or have bad memories. Maybe they are okay if their audiences are deceived a bit.

1 Comment on "2 big Rhino and N&R myths voters should be clear on"

  1. As I understand it, if the video is considered a personnel record then the only way City Council can legally view the record is for all the Council to view the record together. If I’m correct and only part of Council viewed the video then those individual members and those persons who presented to video would be in violation of employee records laws.

    Either way, for Council members to vote on something on which they don’t have actual knowledge is distressful and irresponsible.

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