Published: Jan 22, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Jan 22, 2013 01:16 PM
Jose Lopez, Durhams chief of police, needs to take a class on public relations. It would help if a few members of his team would join him.
One of the principles of public relations is that perception can be more troubling than reality. Durhams Police Department has a major problem due to claims of police brutality. The troubling accusation is made worse by the silence of Lopez.
The first incident involves the case of Stephanie Nickerson, a Chapel Hill resident who says she was beaten by Cpl. Brian Schnee when police responded to a noise complaint Oct. 28.
Pictures of Nickersons battered face spread on the Internet along with a petition asking Lopez to fire Schnee. Protesters have showed up at police headquarters on Tuesdays to protest a lack of attention to the incident.
Lopez says an investigation is under way and that the group is interfering with progress. Meanwhile, Nickerson faces charges of resisting an officer and assaulting a government official. Shes set to appear in court on Thursday.
The confrontation began after police arrived at Nickersons friends house after a call about a disturbance. When police asked to search the house, Nickerson told her friend she didnt have to let the police in because they didnt have a warrant. Thats when police are alleged to have become aggressive.
The police officer was caught on a cell phone video. Although dark and blurry, a voice can be heard demanding, Dont hit her man, dont hit her. Come on bro, thats a female.
The second incident caught the attention of Boots Riley, the leader of The Coup, a West Coast hip-hop group. Riley is the cousin of Carlos Antonio Riley, Jr., who is accused of shooting of a Durham police officer.
Need help from any folks doing social-justice work in the Durham area to help us expose this case of a victim of police brutality defending, Boots Riley posted on his Facebook page last month.
The L.A. Times recently listed The Coups Sorry to Bother You in their Top 10 Albums of 2012. Boots Riley has Durhams roots. He is the son of Walter P. Riley, a Durham native who joined the NAACP statewide campaigns for jobs, voting rights and desegregation, including lunch counters before moving to California in 1965.
Walter became a lawyer and established a practice in downtown Oakland, handling criminal defense, employment discrimination and police misconduct cases. On April 27, 2013, The National Lawyer Guild of the San Francisco Bay will honor Walter for fighting for justice for more than 50 years. Lopez and the Police Department are entangled in a fight with a family trained in confronting police corruption. It would be wise for them to speak.
The police claim Officer Kelly A. Stewart was shot Dec. 18 while wrestling with Riley Jr. in the Forest Pointe Apartments off Broad Street. Stewart suffered a leg wound.
Riley Jr. has been charged with assault on a law-enforcement officer, possession of a firearm by a felon and robbery with a dangerous weapon. Riley Jr. is serving 24 months probation for a 2011 conviction of possession and selling cocaine.
Boots Riley posted on Facebook that Stewart began firing as he pulled his gun. He said Stewart shouted expletives, physically attacked Carlos, verbally threatened to kill him and attempted to draw his weapon to shoot at my cousin.
Boots Riley has been reared in a culture where police brutality is common course. Oakland is the home of the Black Panther Party. Oakland knows police brutality and corruption like Durham knows warehouse blues. They are tied together.
Boots Rileys comments may be over the top. The truth involving Stephanie Nickerson will unfold over the coming weeks. In the meantime, the Police Department is building a reputation that needs to be corrected through a solid public relations campaign.
Expect a hip-hop song performed by The Coup. Imagine the negative press after the release of a hip-hop song about Durham combined with national attention after pictures of Nickersons battered face explodes on the internet.
The truth doesnt matter when the people think something stinks.
The only way to stop it is to listen and speak. You have to do the hard work before its too late.
The clock is ticking.