Only a handful of people know what happened on April 14, when law enforcement officers -- including newly appointed Pembroke Police Chief Mark Crowe -- and a handful of North Bryan residents were involved in an incident that led to several arrests and the use of considerable force against Tommy Lee Williams, one of those arrested.
Accounts of what happened differ. But while law enforcement apparently considers the case closed without need for a formal investigation, those arrested have since filed a civil suit against Crowe, then an employee of the Bryan County Sheriff’s Department, and Bryan County Sheriff Clyde Smith.
What’s more, the affair has also brought to light a distrust of authorities by at least some in the North Bryan black community. We don’t know enough to say whether that distrust is justified, but its existence shows there is some work to do in this regard and the sooner officials get started the better our community will be for all of us.
After all, shouldn’t all law-abiding Bryan County residents feel comfortable knowing law enforcement is on their side, regardless of race, economic status or street address?
We certainly believe that to be the case, just as we believe that any officer who abuses his or her power should not only be held accountable, but has no business being in this line of work to begin with.
Yet by the same token, law enforcement officers deserve be treated with basic human respect. We should remember they are often put into difficult or even dangerous situations that require split second decisions, though that doesn’t justify bad ones. Law enforcement officers are certainly entitled to defend themselves, as well. What’s more, our Constitution provides police the same presumption of innocence as it does the rest of us.
One more thing. We don’t know what happened on April 14. We do know that what happens next is in the hands of the courts and as lawyers go to work the case will be closely followed by many. Yet what matters now is all that has really mattered all along: The truth about what happened that day in North Bryan.