Greensboro Police Chief Brian James said he wanted to hear from the people of Greensboro, and he is.
James is holding eight community forums all across the city, and if the one held at Lindley Park Recreation Center on Thursday, Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. is any indication, the new police chief’s ears may get tired before it’s all over.
About 50 people attended the forum and, with some notable exceptions, people came to voice concerns, ask questions and offer support for the Police Department.
Before the first question was asked, one woman said, “To begin with, we need to say thank you.” And that got a round of applause.
James was sworn in as the police chief on Jan. 31, and he explained that, as the new police chief, he wanted to bring about some change to the department, but said, “I don’t think it would be smart not to get the pulse of the people we serve before we start doing things.”
Tifanie Rudd was the facilitator for the forum. She kept the process moving along and stepped in the few times it was necessary to keep the group on topic.
On the topic of crime, James said that the crime statistics were up in 2019 over 2018, but looking at a longer term, Greensboro was still safer than it had been five or seven years ago.
He noted, “The number that stood out was homicides.”
He added, “No one is immune to violent crime and the safest communities are the ones that have a strong community watch.”
Several people said they would like to see more police in their neighborhoods. James agreed that it was a good idea and said they were trying to figure out how to do it, but since they had to have officers to answer calls it was difficult to find the manpower.
James wouldn’t say that the Police Department was understaffed because he said he didn’t have all the data, but he said from his personal opinion was that the city had grown faster than the Police Department.
James was also asked why police officers were not allowed to take their cars home. He said it was something they were working on but it would require a pretty substantial initial cost. James said, “It’s money, and if you spend it on one thing your not spending it on something else.”
James was asked why didn’t the Greensboro Police Department and the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department combine into one countywide department.
James said, “I’ve never personally thought about it.” He added that was more of a legislative issue than a police department issue.
James was also asked about specific crimes, canine units, elementary schools, FBI informants, human trafficking, homeless people, panhandlers, speeding cars and coyotes, to name some of the issues.
A few people came with the obvious intent of provoking James, but he never took the bait and at the end a number of people made a point of thanking James for being there and wishing him luck.