I believe words have power, but it takes action to create meaningful change. Less than two weeks ago I stood on the steps of the Peace Center plaza and mourned the loss of George Floyd with a group of young activists. I asked the black men in the crowd to raise their hands. I told them, “This is your City.” I meant it and I mean it for all people of color in Greenville.
That event on the plaza was the first of more than a dozen held here in Greenville calling for reform to police policy, better funding for programs to benefit minority communities, accountability for government and law enforcement, and a voice at the table when decisions are made. We have heard the pleas and are taking decisive action.
This week Greenville City Council:
1. Fully reviewed the Greenville Police Department Use of Force Policy and determined that GPD already adheres to #8can’twait recommendations.
- Bans the use of chokeholds, strangleholds and neck restraints
- Requires de-escalation before the use of force
- Requires verbal warning before the discharge of weapon where practical
- Mandates intervention when another officer witnesses improper conduct
- Requires comprehensive reporting to a supervisor when force is used
- Utilizes a use-of-force continuum
- Requires an officer get out of the way of a moving vehicle rather than fire into it
2. Passed the FY2021 budget that addresses home ownership, transportation barriers and neighborhood safety, issues deeply affecting the quality of life of African Americans in our city. Included:
- $2 million for affordable housing to include new construction, owner-occupied home rehabilitation and rental assistance. (In addition to $5 million committed from the County Square/West End Parking fund)
- A record amount of $1.2 million for Greenlink, to improve our public transit system by supporting an efficient, cost-effective method of travel for our citizens.
- $1 million for new sidewalk construction and $1 million for street resurfacing for neighborhoods in need.
3. Proposed a nine-member Citizen Advisory Panel on Public Safety to be formally established at the June 22 council meeting and provide a report within 60 days. The Panel will improve communication flow between the police department and the community and develop a dialogue about Greenville, specifically policing. The panel will continue the review of the GPD Use of Force policy and the composition, duties and responsibilities of the Public Safety Citizens Review Board. Panel members will be asked to review GPD training and minority hiring practices.
The City of Greenville has, and will continue to make the deliberate choice to be inclusive. We will work to ensure our workforce and its leadership represent the diversity of our citizenry. We will work to have open dialogue about what we can do better and commit to self-reflection. We will not be silent. We will speak, we will act, we will ensure that Greenville is a City for all.