After thinking about the events that have taken place since that shameful day in Bryan County, Tuesday, April 14, 2009, when a young man was beaten by law enforcement officers, four others were arrested (including an 81 year old grandmother), and some of the officers received minor injuries, I felt I should voice my opinion.
As I see it, this was a sad situation for Bryan County and the City of Pembroke. It not only placed a division in the community that will be hard to repair, it strengthened the belief of many that the law enforcers in Bryan County are a threat and can do whatever they please without any consequence. This not only applies to the Bryan County Sheriff’s Department, but the Pembroke Police Department as well, because they were just as involved.
To add to the sadness, was the lack of either department to conduct any kind of investigation so they could at least show some concern to the citizens of the community that they have sworn to serve and protect. You would think that they would at least want to clear the names of the officers involved. If they are waiting and hoping that this will be settled out of court, this will not vindicate the officers. It will only look like they have something to hide and just want to sweep it under that big carpet they use for everything else they want to go unnoticed.Finally, the ultimate outrage in my opinion, is the City of Pembroke’s decision to appoint Mark Crowe as Chief of Police at this time without even looking into the matter. I am not accusing him of any wrong doing. In fact, I would think he would want the same thing to make sure he has the full support of the entire community. Mayor Judy Cook and the Police Committee have a duty to appoint someone to this position that is the best qualified to serve the entire City of Pembroke, not just a select few. They were elected into office by the people and should be making decision for the people, not for their personal interests. The office of Chief of Police is an office that the citizens of Pembroke should be able to trust and depend on to do the best job fairly for everyone. It is a job that requires the highest degree of professionalism. We should be able to respect their authority and be respected. Until the issues were examined and both sides heard from, filling the position should have been delayed. I have heard the reasons why it could not wait, and I am not satisfied with the logic. The city just paid for the interim Chief to go to Chief school and he has all the qualifications for the job, so waiting a few more weeks to ensure all the citizens of Pembroke are getting what they deserve just makes sense. I see this as a personal agenda of the City Council. Moreover, there are many Pembroke residents who have formed the same opinion and could care less if it is right or wrong as long as it doesn’t affect their lives or they would be asking for some investigation too.
I know I and some others are being labeled as trouble makers because we disagree with the Council’s decision and are speaking out, but there are many others who are speaking off the record because they are afraid of retribution. I am not one that is going to sit by and act like the majority of the Council members, who are in favor of everything that is put before them. If you represent a district that is opposed to the proposal you need to remember who voted you in and represent the people. If you think it is wrong, you need to say so, that is what a democracy is all about. We don’t need puppets, we need backbone.
I challenge everyone to take out your personal feelings about the people involved and ask yourselves, "If it were someone I did not know, would I want more information before making such an important decision."
Editor's note: Williams, an Air Force veteran, is head of the Bryan County NAACP, a Boy Scout troop leader and a member of both Pembroke's Planning and Zoning Commission and Bryan County Family Connection, among other things.