Councilmember Justin Outling got the attention of his fellow members of City Council with a video he posted on Facebook and an email to fellow councilmembers about the need for immediate action by the City Council to deal with violent crime.
Three members of the council used their “council comment” time at the end of the virtual meeting on Tuesday, March 16 to go after Outling, but not by name, and attempt to refute his charge of inaction by the City Council.
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter talked about all the ride-alongs with police officers she had made and community meetings she had attended.
She also said, “One thing very specifically I heard was we haven’t given the chief and the Police Department the tools he needs and I beg to differ on that.”
She said, “I want to read off the things that he said he needed that we have done. He said he wanted supplemental staffing for patrol, investigative and forensics. We did that. Add five detectives to criminal investigation, did that. Full time homicide program technician, yes. Have the victim advocate go from 20 hours to 40 hours. We did that.
She added, “This is all in December.”
According to the minutes of the City Council meeting, the City Council did none of those things. None of them required City Council action. Police Chief Brian James in the work session on Dec. 7, 2020 was telling the City Council the actions he planned to take with the approval of City Manager David Parrish.
But none of those requests required City Council action and in fact after the Dec. 7 meeting the City Council took no action to assist the Police Department at the next City Council meeting on Dec. 15.
A department head in the City of Greensboro does not require City Council approval to reassign staff.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan also talked about the ride-alongs with police officers she had made and how she was getting information from the police officers out on the front line.
Councilmember Sharon Hightower talked about how interested she was in the Police Department and holding community meetings.
The point Outling made in his video is that the City Council has not taken action to increase salaries, increase the number of authorized police officers or other action to try and reduce violent crime.
Individual councilmembers and even the mayor have no authority to take action on their own. It is only as a body that the City Council has the authority to spend money or change policy.
The video that Outling posted on his Facebook page clearly makes the point that what he is talking about is the inaction of the City Council as the governing body of Greensboro. He noted that individual members of the City Council did have an interest in the Police Department but that interest has not translated into action by the City Council despite the ever increasing rate of violent crime.
Outling’s video and email did have an impact because on Tuesday, March 16. A City Council work session on crime was scheduled for Tuesday, March 23. It will be the first work session on crime this year and the third in the past two years.