For retired Indianapolis Quarterback Andrew Luck, football wrecked his body and stole his joy ââ Sports
GREENSBORO — In 2014, the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a Missouri police officer became almost daily fodder in William Pizio’s Guilford College classroom.
“Every two weeks, the narrative … if you really paid attention … the narrative completely changed,” said Pizio, who teaches criminal justice courses at the college. “This one’s at fault. No, this one’s at fault. This happened. No, this happened.”
About half of his class thought the officer, Darren Wilson, should be indicted, while the other half didn’t. Pizio, a retired New York state trooper, asked his students to justify their stance.
“And it was an hour and a half of yelling, screaming, crying and struggling,” as students tried to support their position, said Pizio, who’s taught at the Quaker-founded college for 20 years.
Pizio’s classroom mirrors much of the argument that has stirred America since the Ferguson shooting and the riots that followed five years ago. Wilson was not indicted, though the Justice Department issued a report citing racial bias in Ferguson’s policing.
But Brown’s death, along with other violence involving officers, has had far-reaching implications for policing and for those tasked with teaching current and future officers.
“One of the things a college degree helps you do is develop an appreciation for where people are coming from,” said David Kauzlarich, who heads UNCG’s Sociology Department and has written extensively about criminal justice.
“People in policing are going to be dealing with a range of folks,” Kauzlarich said. “Any police department has to be ready for that.”
Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough has taken that a step further by partnering with Piedmont International University in its new bachelor’s degree in Winston-Salem. The program at the private Christian university recently began classes with 18 students, Vice Chancellor Sandeep Gopalan said.
Kimbrough, who had some input in the curriculum and whose deputies will help teach the students, called it “foolish” not to want a more educated person “out there protecting you.”
He said law enforcement has changed as technology and society have evolved.
“A lot of the curriculums you see are outdated,” Kimbrough said. “They’re not created by the practitioner, but by the educator.”
Some of the classes will be held at the sheriff’s office, something Gopalan sees as a plus for encouraging a different view of policing.
“That’s important, because the way people perceive universities and colleges is very different to the way they perceive police,” Gopalan said. “So if they see that these people are not just here to shoot weapons or use force but actually to educate,” it can build more trust within the community.
Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers agreed that education is important and supports Kimbrough’s efforts, but he said there’s something more important in his view.
“I find that the more exposure and life experience that people have ... the better law enforcement officer they become,” he said.
He said he relies on his field training officers to evaluate good candidates for the sheriff’s office more than what degrees they have. Higher education, he finds, is more useful to officers who want to gain leadership positions or want to earn more money.
Guilford Sheriff’s Capt. Randy Shepherd, who teaches Basic Law Enforcement Training at Guilford Technical Community College, said prior higher education can help prepare candidates for the concepts and tests involved in passing his course. However, it’s not the only route that will work, he said.
“We can get people straight out of high school, and if they are able to pass the BLET course, it’s more common sense, the ability to deal with people, those sorts of things are better traits,” Shepherd said.
“We see a lot of kids, and they can type reports great,” he said. “But you put them face-to-face talking to an irate citizen or trying to defuse a domestic situation, they don’t have any clue what to do, because they’ve never had one-on-one dealings with anybody because it’s all texting, it’s all over the computer.”
Higher education exposes candidates to the world a little more and makes them learn to rely on themselves, which teaches them a little bit of maturity, Shepherd said.
However, the best training for law enforcement, he said, appears to be the military.
New law enforcement officers continue to learn once they’re sworn in.
Guilford Sheriff’s Capt. Dave Pruitt said one way the department helps rookies improve their communication skills is putting them in the detention center for a period of time.
“That’s a controlled environment, with the people that they’re going to deal with out on the street,” Pruitt said. “It gives them an opportunity to learn to communicate with them, learn to defuse situations, de-escalate.”
Still, Kauzlarich argues, the higher education courses can help. He said he recently talked with a deputy who took one of his criminal justice classes.
“Now that I’m a cop, I apply these theories every day,” the student told him. “I have some idea of why they are doing what they are doing.”
And Pizio said he thinks higher education gives students experience in dealing with real situations.
“There’s two educations you pay for. One is content, your academics, and the other is the experience you get in the door,” he said. “I mean, you get conflict resolution, you get diversity training, multicultural training, you get interpersonal skills, you get all that. And you don’t even know you’re getting it.”
As for the criminal justice master’s degree program, which Guilford College added in 2017, Pizio said that education could help students solve the broader problems of the system by focusing on and finding solutions to their root causes.
“By allowing them to really focus in a very specialized way, they can go back to the probation department, they can go back to their police department, they can go back to the DA’s office and really work to make a change,” he said.
“Is it going to help them in shoot/don’t shoot situations? No, probably not, we hope that their training will,” Pizio said. “But when it comes down to making decisions that may lead to that, we hope so.”
GREENSBORO — Select her as the Democratic presidential nominee and she’ll not only light into “the current occupant of the White House,” but also articulate a winning financial rescue plan for the middle class, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris told an appreciative crowd Sunday at Smith High School.
The California senator and former state attorney general said that if picked as her party’s standard bearer, “we will do what is necessary to prosecute the case against four more years of Donald Trump in the White House.”
She said Trump deserves the heave-ho for backtracking on virtually all of his promises to workaday Americans who are not among the wealthy class that benefited from his much ballyhooed tax break.
The 5-foot-2-inch, 54-year-old politician said Trump was not the only cause for such atrocities as the recent mass killings in El Paso, Texas. But in remarks that lasted about a half hour, she said he shared blame for setting a hateful tone.
“Of course, he did not pull the trigger,” she said. “But he’s certainly been tweeting out the ammunition.”
She said, however, that getting rid of Trump was only the first step toward transforming the country into “the America we believe in.”
She said the path to that goal would hinge on a tax-credit program for wage earners that should give families an additional $500 a month.
Her comments were received enthusiastically by a crowd that booed nearly every time Trump was mentioned. A campaign spokeswoman said that the Greensboro Police Department reported attendance at 1,300.
These are still relatively early days on the path to the Democratic nomination, but more than a few in the audience said they were all-in for Harris.
“I think she brings a lot of experience from her background at the state and local level, and now being a U.S. senator,” said Alton Tyre, a retired social studies teacher who taught for years at Southeast Guilford High School. “And I truly believe she can prosecute the case against our current president.”
Harris supporter Aleshia McLean said she liked the candidate’s grit.
“I think she can take on Donald Trump in the debate,” the McLeansville resident said.
Harris’ audience was patient, entering the Smith High School gymnasium at about 3:30 p.m. and waiting until shortly after 5 p.m. before Harris took stage. There were several warm-up speakers, including state Sen. Gladys Robinson (D-Greensboro) and Greensboro Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson.
Once on stage, the candidate said that a Kamala Harris presidency would see teacher pay rise significantly, a Green New Deal to both address climate change and economic inequality, and increased equal-pay-for-equal-work protections to help women in the workplace.
How would she pay for it?
“On Day 1, we’re going to repeal that tax bill” of 2017, which she said had benefited only the big corporations and the wealthiest 1% of the population.
“Well, Greensboro, I’m traveling around the country and, indeed, people are working. They’re working two and three jobs,” Harris said. “And in America, we believe that nobody should have to work more than one job to put a roof over their head and shoes on their feet.”
If elected president, she said she would give Congress 100 days to put meaningful, commonsense gun legislation on her desk or begin taking executive action on her own to lift the licenses of errant gun dealers and stop the importation of assault rifles.
Political commentators generally see Harris as a potent political campaigner, but lagging somewhat behind the presumptive leaders, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Harris’ fellow U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
The event was held at Smith High School under a Guilford County Schools’ policy that allows such facilities to be rented by outside groups during times when school is not in session, Superintendent Sharon Contreras said Sunday.
She said that like any other renter, the Harris campaign was charged a standard, hourly rate based on the space and services that they had used.
“Our board policy makes it clear that political candidates can only come to the schools under two conditions,” Contreras said, the first being a rental arrangement like that on Sunday.
She said candidates also are welcome on school campuses when they are there to make nonpartisan appearances, such as appearing at a political science class to make an educational presentation.
Harris audience was entertained by several groups, including Andrews High School’s highly acclaimed drum line. Contreras said the a youth services coordinator for the Harris campaign asked the group if they would like to participate in the event.
After her speech, Harris mingled with members of the audience on her way out and posed for selfies with numerous supporters.
Selfie recipient Aaron McKee, an Elon University student, said he and Harris simply exchanged pleasantries, but classified himself a die-hard supporter.
“This is, like, the fourth time I’ve met her,” he said. “I’m going to support her all the way through.”
Don’t be surprised to see those big yellow buses back on the road today. Classes resume this morning for Guilford County Schools on a traditional calendar.
You might also see more police cars than usual.
Today through Sept. 6, “Operation School Watch” will target traffic violations in and around school zones. The Greensboro Police Department, Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, High Point Police Department and the Highway Patrol will be on the lookout for speeding, seat-belt usage, pedestrian school-crosswalk violations, graduated-driving violations and school bus stop-arm violations.
Officers will use marked and unmarked vehicles, motorcycles and police spotters. Some will follow school-bus routes, watching for motorists who fail to stop for stopped school buses displaying red lights and stop arms.
They’ll also watch students’ driving habits as they drive to and from school.
Be careful out there.
Celebrity alert: ‘Duck Dynasty’ star Jase Robertson to speak in Davidson County event. Page A3
RALEIGH — Four death row prisoners will argue to North Carolina’s highest court that racial bias so infected their trials that they should be resentenced to life in prison as attorneys revive arguments about a repealed law on race and capital punishment.
The state Supreme Court will hear arguments today and Tuesday in the cases of four death row inmates who briefly were resentenced to life without parole when legislators approved the Racial Justice Act in 2009. The law was repealed four years later.
Justices also will hear from attorneys for two other death row prisoners whose RJA claims weren’t decided before the law was repealed.
“We found the evidence (of racial bias), then the legislature repealed the law,” said David Weiss, staff attorney at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation. “The question is: Can we act as if that evidence was never uncovered?”
The center describes differing types of racial bias in all the cases, including prosecutors who described a black juror with a criminal history as a “thug” while using “a fine guy” to describe a white juror who had trafficked in drugs. But it said that a statistical study showed in all the cases that prosecutors struck qualified black jurors at far higher rates than white jurors. In some cases, an all-white jury decided the fate of the defendants sentenced to death row.
Under the RJA, condemned men and women could challenge their death sentences by using statistics to show that race tainted their trials. When Republicans took control of the legislature and amended the law in 2012, they set a new limit on what statistics can be used and said those numbers alone couldn’t be used to show race was a significant factor in a death row prisoner’s conviction or sentence.
Legislators repealed the law in 2013, and the four resentenced to life behind bars were returned to death row. They include Christina Walters, one of just three women on North Carolina’s death row.
“RJA is a remedy, but the remedy did not fit the egregiousness of what these defendants suffered,” said Sen. Floyd McKissick, a sponsor of the 2009 RJA. “Rather than having sentences changed from death to life without parole, they really should have been given a new trial that was free of racial bias.”
North Carolina has 142 people on death row. Fifty-two, or about 36 percent, are white. The other 90 prisoners, or about 63 percent, are black, Native American or other. The overall state population is almost 71 percent white.
In legal filings, Senior Deputy Attorney General Danielle Marquis Elder writes that the issue before the justices is a narrow one about whether lower courts correctly voided the RJA claims after the act was repealed.
She also writes that the prisoners can raise claims of racial discrimination through other procedures. “The repeal of the RJA removed only one mechanism for raising a statutorily defined claim of racial discrimination; it did not impede criminal defendants from asserting constitutional claims of racial discrimination through other mechanisms,” she wrote.
One of those methods would be through making what’s called a Batson claim, based on a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision that qualified jurors can’t be kicked out of jury pools because of their race or gender. But North Carolina’s Supreme Court “has never once found a substantive Batson violation” in the 74 cases that it’s heard, according to a 2016 report for the North Carolina Law Review.
And in 1995, the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys offered training called Top Gun II, where prosecutors learned to overcome Batson problems.
“One of the big takeaways from the Racial Justice Act is that when we look behind the curtain” there’s evidence of racial bias, Weiss said. “The legislature suspected it when they passed the law. And then when we looked even further, we found troubling, specific evidence in each of the individual cases.”