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GPD chief: N&R just plain wrong on cop cameras

Check out below the N&R’s interview with outgoing Greensboro Police Chief Ken Miller in wake of the controversy over body cameras on cops in wake of the police shooting of 47-year-old Chieu-di Thi Vo.

Miller, who’s shaking Gboro’s dust off his boots come Sunday, deflects the reporter’s semi-probing question pretty well, taking a nice parting shot at the local paper of record by saying they’re “plain wrong” in demanding Miller release footage from the officer’s body camera the during the Vo shooting.

Meanwhile the city will host “a panel of legal representatives and what it described as ‘thought leaders’ in a discussion on the topic of police body worn cameras and public records.” If you think that’s going to get anything done, think again. The Rhino’s John Hammer is right when he hopes “someone will take this to court and let the courts decide whether a video taken by a police officer is a part of that police officer’s personnel file.”

Which is what’s happening out in St. Louis, where a citizen journalist is filing a lawsuit seeking the release of Michael Brown’s juvenile records.

It’s not quite that simple— St Louis County court officials denied the request, arguing that state law requires juvenile records to be sealed for the protection of the juvenile in order “to facilitate their best interests as they proceed through life.”

But –plaintiff argues —what if the juvenile is no longer proceeding through life—deceased — as is the case with Michael Brown?

All interesting questions for the court to ponder. I would think if the N&R really, really wants to see the video, they would break out the check book and lawyer up. But things are pretty over on East market Street these days.

Update: Removed the video —watch via the N&R link above, if you have the patience to get through the ads and the other news items.

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Medicare deadline looming

WFDD reports the Forsyth County Department of Social Services is scrambling to clear its backlog of Medicaid applications by the end of this month, which –looking at my calendar — is this Sunday. With more than 1500 applications yet to clear, county officials say —imagine this — it’s likely they will not meet the deadline.

Guilford County’s backlog is around 700 cases, and DSS officials there “believe the county will be able to meet the state’s August 31st deadline.”

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Womble crash suit settled

Winston-Salem Journal reports the ongoing legal dispute between former state Rep. Larry Womble and the downtown restaurant Sixth and Vine has been resolved. The suit was filed following a 2011 head-on crash in which Womble was seriously injured and Winston-Salem resident David Carmichael was killed:

Womble was initially charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle in the Dec. 2, 2011, accident, with police alleging that Womble crossed the center line on Reynolds Park Road and crashed into the car driven by Carmichael, 54. But Steven M. Arbogast, a state prosecutor with the

N.C. Attorney General’s Office, voluntarily dismissed the charge after further investigation, including an accident reconstruction, indicated that it was Carmichael’s car that crossed the center line.

Womble alleged in the lawsuit that Carmichael had consumed a large amount of alcohol at Sixth & Vine on the night of the accident and left the restaurant “in an extremely intoxicated condition.” Just after 11 p.m., Carmichael got in his car and started driving home. While in the eastbound lane in the 2600 block of Reynolds Park Road, Carmichael crossed the center line and collided head-on with Womble’s car in the westbound lane.

According to the lawsuit, toxicology reports showed that Carmichael had a blood-alcohol level of 0.29 percent, more than three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent. The lawsuit said that Carmichael had three separate receipts from Sixth & Vine in his pockets, all dated Dec. 2, 2011, with the last receipt issued to Carmichael about 20 minutes before the accident.

Sixth and Vine maintained that Carmichael did not purchase alcohol while he was there and that the receipts found in his pocket prove that. But the terms of the voluntary dismissal with prejudice are confidential, according to Womble’s attorneys, so we may never know the real story.

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Paging Thom Tillis

While a lot of eyes are on Sen. Kay Hagan’s embrace of President Obama in Charlotte –right after she slammed the president on the VA—- opponent Thom Tillis is hopefully boning up on the latest JLF report praising the North Carolina’s ’14-’15 budget, in which Tillis played a major role as house speaker:

Most reports about the new budget have focused on an average teacher salary increase of 7 percent, “one of the largest pay raises for North Carolina teachers in a generation,” according to the report. The budget sets aside $282 million for teacher raises.

The budget not only increased Medicaid spending but created a $186 contingency fund for (expected) Medicaid shortfalls. Yet all anyone will hear was how North Carolina chose not to expand Medicaid.

It’s going to get real interesting after Labor Day, but in the midst of all the craziness I hope Tillis chooses to run on his record, not run from it.

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Terry Johnson trial now in judge’s hands

The judge’s ruling in the civil rights violations trial of Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson is not expected for months now that the trial has wrapped up.

As expected, Johnson took the stand:

Johnson said that until he was deposed, he hadn’t been aware of emails or a video game circulating among his deputies. The emails were derogatory of Hispanics, and the video game required players to shoot Mexicans to score points.

Asked about Laura Roselle, Johnson said a Sheriff’s Office car was in her neighborhood because a deputy lived around the corner. Roselle is an Elon University professor and member of a group advocating for better treatment of Hispanics by law enforcement. She moved her family out of Alamance County in 2011 because she believed the Sheriff’s Office was threatening her.

Johnson denied ever being at checkpoints in Green Level and Haw River, where he was alleged to have told deputies to arrest Hispanics. He also denied referring to Hispanics as “chili-[vulgarity].”

As for the Rocky Top Mobile Home Park incident, Johnson said when he told deputies to “go get some Mexicans,” he was referring to members of a Mexican gang, and that the mobile home park came to the department’s attention because a Mexican gang was believed to be there.

Johnson also said the 287(g) program was a success while the county had it.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder appears to be putting a tough burden of proof on the U.S. Department of Justice to prove that Johnson violated the rights of Hispanics living in Alamance County, especially the DOJ-hired “expert” who conducted the field study showing that the sheriff’s issued citations to Hispanics at a higher rate than non-Hispanics. Based on that, I’ll go out on a limb and predict Johnson is found not guilty.

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Ken Miller’s exit interview

What jumps out when reading Greensboro Police Chief Ken Miller’s N&R exit interview:

It’s very easy to focus on the process side of the job and completely lose connectivity with the community. I don’t view us as law enforcement. I’m a policeman and the business I’m in is policing. Policing is much more encompassing than law enforcement.

It takes examples periodically, like Ferguson, to wake us up and shake us a little bit. We haven’t really had that kind of incident here in Greensboro.

That might be news to a couple of local activists— Revs. Nelson Johnson and Cardes Brown following the Aug. 4 arrest of 27-year-old Rufus Scales and the citation of his 22-year-old brother Devin. Johnson said the arrest was “frighteningly similar” to the tragic incident in Ferguson, while Brown is more direct, saying in today’s (unposted) N&R article —right below Miller’s interview on the front page — that “Ferguson is happening in Greensboro.”

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Two views on voucher ruling

As you’ve probably heard, Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood on Thursday ruled the state’s private school voucher program in violation of the state constitution.

As you can probably imagine, the N&R’s Doug Clark says Hobgood’s ruling “so clearly and forcefully points out the faults of this voucher initiative that overturning it would require legal gymnastics.”

Meanwhile, JLF’s Terry Stoops says Hobgood’s “various constitutional objections were overshadowed by his obvious contempt for private schools generally,” leaving “thousands of low-income families will find themselves, once again, without the means to send their children to the school that best meets their needs.”

Earlier in the week the N&R expressed concern over homeschooling, saying not only that the “public shouldn’t pay for that right” but also wringing its collective hands over a child missing out on “the social and cultural exposure from each other that some children only get during the school day” and “the long-term impact of a community — and all of its parts — working together for the common good…”

Meanwhile voucher supporters say Hobgood’s ruling is nothing more than a temporary roadblock.

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HP sticking with ElectriCities

High Point city leaders heard an update from an ElectriCities official regarding its share of the cooperative’s $1.5 billion debt.

His recommendation? Stay the course and pray 2020 gets here fast, at which time a sizable amount of that debt can be retired.

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Defense begins in Terry Johnson trial

Defense attorneys for Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson made a motion to dismiss the case, but U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder allowed the sheriff’s civil right violations trial to continue even though he will take the defense’s motion under consideration.

A couple of interesting things jump out in the Burlington Times-News coverage. One is Johnson has the support of his county district attorney:

Among other witnesses Tuesday, Alamance County District Attorney Pat Nadolski testified that he was unaware of any racial profiling by the sheriff’s department. Nadolski said he would “absolutely” address a pattern of profiling or discrimination with an officer and their superiors, including Johnson.

“Even if it was not a pattern (of behavior), it would be my duty to. Even if it was a one-time event,” Nadolski said.

Another interesting aspect –part of DOJ’s case has been accusations of Hispanic racial slurs within the sheriff’s department. But here’s the question —is “Mexican” a racial slur?

Even the use of the term “Mexican” was weighed. Several DOJ witnesses claimed they heard Johnson refer to all Hispanics as “Mexican,” or tell deputies to “go get some Mexicans.” At least one officer said he believed Johnson was referring to Mexican drug cartels.

“If Mexican drug dealers are operating in a county, can a sheriff say to arrest a Mexican drug dealer?” Schroeder asked Songer. “What is the sheriff supposed to say? I read in the newspaper all the time about Mexican drug cartels. I have a criminal docket (full of defendants involved with cartels) … How does law enforcement refer to someone that way?”

Songer argued that would still be a violation of the Constitution by making “an express classification” targeting Mexicans.

The trial—unless the case is dismissed— continues today, and I’ve heard from other news sources that Johnson will at some point take the stand.

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Shakespeare Festival’s demise

By now you’ve heard that the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival —based in High Point since its inception in 1977 — has ceased operations.

High Point Enterprise speculates whether or not the loss of state funding started the festival’s downward spiral:

(B)ut three years ago, with the Great Recession strapping state finances, then-Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue and the Republican-controlled General Assembly eliminated more than $200,000 in annual state financing. One immediate result was that the Shakespeare Festival canceled its fall season three years ago, which at the time was a first for the festival launched in 1977.

The loss of state funding may have prompted a downward spiral that’s led to the festival’s ending.

…Local attorney Jim Morgan, a former chairman of the board for the Shakespeare Festival, said the cut of state funding contributed to the downward spiral for the festival.

“Losing $200,000 all at once is a lot of money. It certainly was not helpful,” Morgan said.

No it wasn’t helpful, but the $1.5 million donation from local philanthropist Jim Millis was helpful. You have to wonder where that money went so quickly. One commenter to the HPE has a theory —- “overhires and grand plans for expansion of a entity that never made a dime.”

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