08/09/09 — Mayor blasts NAACP motives

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Mayor blasts NAACP motives

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 9, 2009 2:00 AM

An assault on a police officer case that ended in the courts with a plea deal on July 30 is still on the mind of Goldsboro's mayor.

But Al King isn't thinking about how the guilty plea vindicated his police department -- which had been under fire from the local chapter of the NAACP for its handling of the person arrested, 17-year-old Tavares Allen -- or how another young black man is now in the probation system.

The case still lingers because, for him, it represents the flawed philosophy and misplaced motives of the new leadership of the NAACP.

"The NAACP has lost credibility with me. I remember years ago, they had a voice, but they were very reasonable. We had honorable citizens in this thing, trying to do the right thing," he said. "They did not support bad behavior. If they saw that, hey, this person is wrong, they weren't going to defend them. ... The group right now is much different."

The city drew complaints from the group over the actions of officers Orlando Rosario and Philip French, who showed up at Alpha Arms apartments March 29 to serve a warrant on Allen -- and ended up chasing and tackling the young man when he fled. Rosario's use of threats of pepper spray and his service weapon also drew the group's ire.

King said the officers were justified.

"In this case, you've got a young man, 17 years old, trying to take a police officer's gun. They had a warrant for (Allen's) arrest. They showed up, and he gave them a phony name. ... But they recognized him so he took off running. They caught him ... and the guy is trying to take the police officer's weapon. ... And all the people are standing around these officers who seem to be against the police," he said. "Then he goes to court, and he is guilty. But the NAACP is going to request an SBI investigation in support of a 17-year-old thug? What message does that send to 17-year-olds out there? That it's OK to run from police, to try to take their guns. Hey, it's OK. No. I think that's irresponsible."

This is not the first time the group has claimed police brutality, King said. The problem was, however, the group did not come with facts and names, the mayor said, just insinuations.

For the last two years, members of the NAACP have talked in generalities about alleged incidents but have never offered specifics -- to the point that King, City Manager Joe Huffman and Police Chief Tim Bell met with local president Sylvia Barnes at City Hall.

"She started talking about the police department -- profiling, excessive force, brutality. I'm sitting there like, 'Whoa.' And I looked at Chief Bell and Joe and they were just as shocked as I was," King said. "They went on and on and on, and I kept waiting for them to give me some names, and they never did. So I asked them, I said, 'OK. OK. Who are these people? Give me the names of the police officers ... so we can take some action here. ... I said, 'You're going have to give me a name. If you don't give me a name, I don't know what to do.' Again, they never did -- and still haven't."

And that is where the problem lies, the mayor said. The NAACP does not fight against injustice the way it should -- by standing with law enforcement officers and others who are putting their efforts toward cleaning up the streets and getting rid of drug dealers and other criminals who terrorize neighborhoods and threaten families' safety.

Instead, rather than dealing with the real problems facing black families in the city, they are attacking those who are risking their lives to make the conditions better for all who reside in Goldsboro.

"It's frustrating because it's a subject that is very special to me and its very sensitive. I want to know if there are bad police officers. And that is why I don't have very much respect for (the NAACP). ... Because I feel if they have really got something, I am sitting right here. And if their intentions were honorable, they would come down here and put it on my table," he said. "If they don't do that and the only time I see them is when they are throwing bombs at the police department, I have no respect for that. And I don't think the citizens of this great city do either. (Our police department) can learn and do better all the time. But it doesn't matter what the NAACP or anybody else says, until I have facts that give me reason to think otherwise, I stand behind the Goldsboro Police Department."

Reporter Nick Hiltunen contributed to this report.