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Citizen patrols on Eastside begin on Monday

A new dawn or just another day?
Warwick Jones

The prelude to the heralded citizen patrols through the Eastside will be a march. It will begin at noon tomorrow, Saturday, and last some three hours. If measured by the number of participants, its success will probably be modest at best. For some spectators, it may seem just another march through the Eastside, rich in hope but void of prospect. For others, and the marchers, it will be the curtain opener to what could be the first real effort to rid the Eastside of its ubiquitous drug dealing - the first real partnership of the community with other communities, with the City, and the police. More importantly, it is arguably the most serious effort of the residents themselves to confront the issue and to step out, despite the obvious dangers, to make a difference.

It will take more than goodwill!
The nightmares of those on the Eastside are turning into a vision - a safe community, a better future for children, an end to killings. Other communities are dreaming of emulating the success hoped for by the Eastside. Mayor Riley sees the success achieved in Charleston as being a model for other cities. But these are all hopes and the reality will be faced on Monday and the ensuing weeks. If success is guaranteed by goodwill, then success is certain. But it will take more than goodwill. It will take courage and risk, and more volunteers for citizen patrols.

There were two meetings yesterday of note. One was of some CPAD (Citizens Patrols against Drugs) participants to finalize outstanding issues relating to the march. The list of those speaking at the conclusion was decided and included Mayors Riley and Summey. And what truly is a lost cause, all speakers will be limited to 3 minutes.

Mayor Riley gives support
The other meeting was with Mayor Riley and a large group representing the County and CPAD. The meeting had been sought primarily by County Council members Darby and Pryor to ascertain the degree of support from the City. As well as the two County Council members, present were County Sheriff Cannon, Chief County Administrator Mack Canterbury, County Attorney Joe Dawson, City Council members Mitchell, Gilliard and Lewis, Police Chief Mullen, and Dot Scott from the NAACP, and others.

Members of the CPAD group were concerned about the Mayor's initial response to its request for assistance about a month ago. The Mayor promised support but indicated that nothing could be done until the new Police Chief was on board. The group decided with the momentum for patrols building, the effort should proceed regardless. It was accompanied by a suspicion that the City was not interested in helping. After all, the Police Department was not leaderless, any commitment by the acting head could be discussed by phone with the new Chief, and besides, the requests were not onerous.

Heated discussion
The Mayor in his opening remarks lauded the proposed patrols and promised his support. But the discussion subsequently turned heated, probably more because of uncertainties than differences. It seemed that the Mayor and Chief Mullen were asking for a delay to the beginning of the patrols, a delay that was out of the question for Council members Darby and Pryor. A compromise was reached. The patrols would start on Monday as scheduled but participants would undergo some basic training and education beforehand.

Police to add 8 officers to complement on Eastside
Police Chief Mullen spoke shortly after the Mayor opened the discussion. He too applauded the effort. His commitment to addressing the drug problem was reinforced by his decision to assign another 8 police office to the Eastside, to patrol between the hours of 8 pm and 3 am. There were now 29 police officers assigned to the Eastside. He was supportive of citizen patrols but he had some concerns.

The concerns
In summary, he wanted to set up a liaison between the police and CPAD, and to work out the details, particularly in relation to communication during operations. He also had concern about possible dangers and asked that participants in patrols undertake some basic training and education. He also noted that he and the Mayor would be held accountable if something went wrong. They wanted to be sure and to consider all of the details. He also indicated there would be no problem in providing cell phones for the periond of the patrols and suggested that the center of operations should be the new police station on Shepherd Street.

There must be no delays!
Council member Darby was the first to respond and suggested that many of the concerns expressed by the Chief had already been addressed. The group had cooperated with the County Sheriff's department. The Council member was clearly opposed to anything that would cause a delay in beginning patrols on Monday. He also indicated that he and others thought that the Pastors building on Columbus Streets would be a better facility for CPAD, and more central.

NAACP supports Council member
Ms. Scott of the NAACP spoke after Council member Darby and passionately declared that the patrols must begin as scheduled. She clearly considered the effort very important. The issues raised by the Chief could and should be addressed by Monday. Doing it right was important but too often this was an excuse for not doing it all.

Patrols will begin on Monday and police will provide some basic training
A lot more was said but agreement was eventually reached. All the issues raised by the Chief would be addressed by Monday. The CPAD group appointed a person to be the liaison with the City's Police. There would also be some basic training and education given over the weekend and before the beginning of patrols on Monday. The details of the police participation remained to be worked out but should not be a problem. Most likely the City police would be in uniform rather than undercover. Cell phones would be provided. Presumably the Chief will also work with the group to develop an operational plan, guide participants in what they should do and look for. Council member Darby says that most of this has been done. But to reassure the Chief and the Mayor it will be done again. And nothing will be lost.

For those wishing to support CPAD, the march begins at noon and at the junction of Huger and Meeting Streets. If you are an African American and you wish to join the CPAD patrols, phone 266 3500.

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