Ministers unite with one accord

Rev. Dr. John Mendez, left, Rev. Dr. Carlton A.G. Eversley and Rev. Paul Robeson Ford, members of the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, gather during last week’s press conference to refute comments made by District Attorney Jim O'Neill.

Ministers unite with one accord
November 15
08:26 2018

The Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity (MCWSV) held a meeting on Tuesday to discuss their collective stance on the situation that transpired on Oct. 5 at Hanes Middle School involving a female student.

The conference held an initial press conference on Oct. 10 at Emmanuel Baptist Church to stand beside the student and her mother, Tameka McLean.  McLean and her daughter claimed that Hanes Middle School SRO (student resource officer) T.B. McCormick used excessive force when he detained the student in the parking lot of the school.

At that initial press conference, members of the conference condemned the actions of McCormick and were calling for severe disciplinary action, including termination. 

Recently, an article was published in the Winston-Salem Journal in which District Attorney Jim O’Neill stated that the conference has changed their stance on McCormick.  Later that week, Rev. Paul Robeson Ford, Rev. Dr. John Mendez and Rev. Dr. Carlton A.G. Eversley refuted the comments made by O’Neill. 

During that press conference, a statement was read that stated, “The Minister’s Conference of Winston-Salem refutes the statement of Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill that we have changed our position in regards to the firing of officer McCormick.  On October 10, we made it clear that when officer McCormick threw Ms. Rockell Baldwin [the student] to the ground, handcuffed her behind her back and had her face pressed into the turf, he lost his right to continue employment by the Winston-Salem Police Department.”

“Race is central to this case.  We do not believe that McCormick would have treated any white girl this way.  We look forward to viewing the body cam footage, scheduled to be released tomorrow.  We do not believe any antecedent words or actions by Ms. Baldwin, warranted or justified officer McCormick’s actions.”

There was footage floating around on social media platforms showing Baldwin being handcuffed in the parking lot of the school, shot by a bystander.  That video does not show what transpired prior to Baldwin being taken to the ground.

Last week, body cam footage taken by officer McCormick was finally released to the public.  It shows McCormick giving multiple orders for Baldwin to stop leaving school grounds and return to the school.  Baldwin refused, which prompted McCormick to take Baldwin into custody.

During Tuesday’s conference meeting, members collectively discussed the matter and how they should move going forward.  A decision was made to release a statement to the press addressing their stance on the issue after many of the members had the chance to view the body camera footage.

The statement reads; “We acknowledge that it has been determined by the Winston-Salem Police Department that Officer McCormick acted in accordance with existing policy and procedure. We do not contest this finding. We call for the re-examination of policy and procedure that facilitates the school-to-prison pipeline and the criminalization of black and brown young people. We know that our young people are frequently targeted for violence by authorities in power over them due to biases in how policies and procedures are enforced. We are committed to caring for all of our young children, especially those who are often marginalized by societal prejudices and structures of oppression. We will work with all community partners who are committed to the same goals.”

In the days leading up to Tuesday’s meeting, there seemed to be members standing on both sides of the issue.  Some were calling for McCormick to be fired, while others stated they wished to view the body camera footage before forming an opinion.  Now a consensus has been reached.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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