Portrait of a policeman standing with his arms folded

GREENSBORO — Pain and anger. Disappointment and resentment. 

These were the emotions expressed Monday night as local residents discussed the current police administration. 

More than 70 residents gathered Monday at Shiloh Baptist Church to discuss what they want to see in the next police chief. 

But much of the conversation focused on what they did not like about current Chief Wayne Scott, who is retiring early next year

Since Scott became chief in March 2015, the department has faced allegations of racial discrimination, an increase in violent crimes that led to 44 homicides in 2017, the highest number of homicides in a single year and at least two in-custody deaths.

The death of Marcus Smith, who died in police custody after being restrained using the controversial RIPP-Hobble device, was frequently brought up. His mother, Mary Smith, sent a written statement that was read during the meeting. 

"When the city looks for a new person to hire for any position but especially for important positions like Chief of Police they should make sure the candidates don't have any character resembling Chief Scott's character," Mary Smith said. 

Smith said Scott led her to believe her son was suicidal and combative before he collapsed. After watching the officers' body-worn camera footage of her son's death, she said she regrets repeating to her church and family what Scott had told her.

"You're going to let the chief walk away from this, on the taxpayer's dime," Smith asked. "This is the most cowardly way for the council to act. And for him to want to walk away when the heat is on is despicable."

But distrust in the Greensboro Police Department reaches past Scott's tenure. 

Residents brought up the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, a 2015 New York Times article that spotlights racial disparities in Greensboro policing and the "black book" created during former Police Chief David Wray's tenure. Wray said the book with photos of 19 officers was used to investigate a sexual assault, but minority officers who sued over it alleged the book was used to unfairly investigate black officers. People attending Monday's meeting also talked about five minority officers they said were forced out for speaking out against past administrations. 

But Scott's hiring was especially controversial. City Councilwoman Michelle Kennedy told the consultants leading the meeting that city residents felt betrayed when they learned Scott was their new chief. 

She said at that time, before she was on the council, Kennedy with 80 other leaders met at the Greensboro Coliseum and discussed who they wanted as the next police chief. 

The decision was down to Scott or Danielle Outlaw, now Portland, Oregon's police chief. 

"We felt really strongly about one candidate and the other candidate became our chief," Kennedy said. "We were stunned where we ended up."

Adding to the residents' concerns Monday was the city's selection of consulting firm Developmental Associates to help find the next chief. It's the same firm that helped when Scott was chosen. 

The Rev. Cardes Brown, who was one of the leaders at the coliseum meeting, said 12 black ministers went to then-City Manager Jim Westmoreland and voiced their concerns about Scott. They felt Outlaw would help bridge the "divided community." Despite their concerns and the consensus at the coliseum, Westmoreland chose Scott.  

"I don't want this to be an exercise in futility," Brown said. "We need to know that what you are going to recommend is not going to be something to appease the crowd for a little while and let them go on about business as usual. So it has to be a legitimate process." 

Consultants Pat Bazemore and Rodney Monroe, both former police chiefs, told the crowd that while their company helped with Scott's selection, neither of them were involved. They also reminded the room that the decision ultimately falls to City Manager David Parrish. 

Monroe appeared to win over the crowd by showing he understood their concerns. One person asked if he would come out of retirement to be Greensboro's next chief. 

"No, no, no, no," Monroe said. "That cannot happen. Forty years, is 40 years." 

Monroe also got the crowd to focus on the needs of the city in searching for its next police chief. 

It became clear that the residents want a chief that can unite the community no matter their race, religion or sexual orientation. They want a chief with accountability, transparency, common-sense and an understanding of the community. 

Monroe and Bazemore now will meet with City Manager David Parrish and Assistant City Manager Trey Davis to discuss the community's feedback, coupled with responses from an online survey, and develop an advertisement for the police chief position. 

But the 70 gathered at the meeting, including Cardes and Kennedy, urged Davis and the consultants to talk with them along the way. 

"As a council member I completely understand that this decision rests on the shoulders of our city manager," Kennedy said, "but there are 300,000 people in this city who have a very strong opinion about it and, frankly, whose opinion matters more." 

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Contact Danielle Battaglia at 336-373-4476 and follow @dbattagliaNR on Twitter.​

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