A Matter of Trust

A Matter of Trust
September 17
00:00 2014

Local law enforcers reassure community in wake of Ferguson, Mo. crisis

(pictured above:  (From left) City Council Member Jeff MacIntosh with Human Relations Director Wanda Allen-Abraha, Sheriff Bill Schatzman, Chief Barry Rountree, Human Relations Commissioner Chanthini Palmer, Assistant City Attorney Lori Sykes, DA James O’Neill, City Manager Lee Garrity and Human Relations Commissioner Michael Clinton.)

Hands, baton, pepper spray, taser.

Winston-Salem Police Chief Barry Rountree said Tuesday evening that officers have an array of tools at their disposal and only use the most lethal one – the gun – when absolutely necessary.



Rountree joined the county’s other top law enforcers – Sheriff Bill Schatzman and District Attorney James O’Neill – at City Hall for the latest of the Human Relations Commission’s annual Trust Talks, which were started three years ago to build bridges between the Police Department and public, particularly residents of color.



The August shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white Ferguson, Mo. police officer was what mainly drove the sparsely-attended talk. Residents – who jotted down their questions on index cards that were delivered to Human Relations Commissioner Michael Clinton to read – asked about the agencies’ racial diversity, their policies on racial profiling and about officers’ training. Questions about the use of deadly force, especially when a suspect is unarmed, were posed in many different iterations.

Schatzman said across the spectrum, the level of force used should be appropriate for the circumstance.
“There is a continuum of force that all law enforcement officers are trained in,” he said.
The sheriff rejected notions that officers are blood-hungry and trigger-happy.

“I have never met a law enforcement officer … who wants to hurt anyone. They are there to help,” he said.

Rountree contended that there are things residents can do to help their interactions with officers go smoothly. Comply with officers’ requests, he said, and if residents feel they were treated unfairly, they can take up the issue later with the officer’s supervisor or file a complaint.

“Arguing on the side of the road is not the place,” he said.

Schatzman said he relayed the simple advice his father gave him about dealing with law enforcement officers to his own kids – say “Yes, sir; No, sir; Thank you, sir.”

He said officers should show similar deference to citizens.

“In a perfect world, that is what we should expect and have,” he said.

Both Schatzman and Rountree said their departments are always looking to build trust in the community. Both police and the Sheriff’s Office offer citizens’ academy to give regular folks a glimpse into the agencies. If city voters approve an upcoming bond referendum, Rountree will open community-based sub stations, one in each of the city’s three patrol districts. He said having officers who patrol the districts actually working out of a station in the area will lead to better service.

Making the police department representative of the community it serves is also a way to build trust, Rountree said, but he conceded that his department has some work to do in that area. The department is 79 percent white; that is about 30 percent higher than the Winston-Salem’s overall white population (51 percent).

“We are constantly working on that,” he said.

O’Neill said 32 percent of his prosecutors are minorities. According to figures provided by Schatzman, 88 percent of his sworn deputies are white. The racial makeup (64 percent white/ 56 minority) of the employees of the Forsyth County Detention Center, which is run by the Sheriff’s Office, is more in line with the county’s racial makeup.

Lori Sykes, the City’s public safety attorney, and Human Relations Commissioner Chanthini Palmer were also panelists. Human Relations Director Wanda Allen-Abraha said the discussion will be posted in its enterity on the WSTV page at

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T. Kevin Walker

T. Kevin Walker

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