If you go past the three minute limit for public comment in a Sharpsburg town meeting, you could be arrested. Tuesday night while Wilson NAACP president Ricardo Dew was speaking, the three minute time limit was called. He asked Mayor Randy Weaver if he could ask one question before he sat down. Dew came to the town council after a number of citizens called him to express their concerns about how they are treated by the police in that town
Weaver said he had to move on. “I’ve asked you to sit down, so please sit down,” Weaver said to Dew. A Sharpsburg police sergeant stood up behind Dew and reached for Dew’s left arm. Dew pulled his arm free.
“Can I get my paperwork, please,” Dew said gathering his papers at the podium. “Thank you. Thank you.” The officer backed up.
Sharpsburg Chief of Police, John Hunt, said when people go longer than the allotted time and are asked to sit down they are disturbing the town meeting. “We could have arrested him,” Hunt said. “We didn’t.” Hunt said his job is to preserve law and order.
Dew said he was never disruptive, after the meeting was over. “I simply asked if I could ask a question before I sat down,” Dew said. “The topic wasn’t something they wanted to deal with. I was asking them about their policy on towing that they don’t go by.” The person who spoke to the town council before Dew talked and asked questions for more than double the three minute limit. Her questions were about the baseball field in town.
Video Source: The DCN, Curmilus Dancy II https://curmilus.wordpress.com
Curmilus Dancy II, Edgecombe NAACP officer, told town officials that he also has been getting numerous complaints about police mistreating people who live in Sharpsburg. Dancy said when he has suggested to residents to call Hunt and they do, he never calls back. So, Dancy said he began trying to contact Hunt and when he did get a voicemail, Hunt was rude.
Sharpsburg is in a unique location where Nash, Edgecombe and Wilson Counties meet.
CITIZENS STATE THEIR CASE
But many of the citizen who came to the meeting Tuesday night say Hunt and his officers are rude, use abusive language and won’t talk to citizens who have concerns. Some expressed fear of officers. Residents also complained about the local towing service saying the town favors that one business and they should be able to call for the towing service of their choice as the town policy allows.
Patrice Perry said her father had purchased a car from another relative when she was pulled over. She said the officer said she did not have correct tags or insurance.
“I pulled into the parking lot and I told him I could get a wrecker to get my car towed myself,” Perry explained. “They told me that chief said they call who they want to call. The chief said it is a state law – that is what he told me.” Perry said she called to get more information about the law and was told that there is no such law and that she could call the towing service of her choice.
“My car has been there ever since and the storage is more than the car is worth,” Perry said. Perry said she is being assessed $35 a day for storing the car. Town commissioner Beverly Davis asked her why didn’t she just get the car out of storage. Perry told her, she could not afford the storage and the towing charge.
Barbara Etheridge, another resident, said she was riding with a friend, Cheryl Ramos, in January when they were stopped by a Sharpsburg police officer. Barbara Ethridge said Hunt was using profanity when he tried to take the driver out of the car with her seatbelt still hooked.
“Her foot was still on break and I had to get over to the other side and step on the brake to stop the and keep it from hitting another car,” Ethridge said. She said when she got out of the car, Hunt was very rude to her.
“This happened nine months ago?” Weaver questioned. “Why am I just hearing about it?” Etheridge said her friend could not come to the meeting because she was at work. Weaver asked Barbara Ethridge to have her friend come and talk to him about the incident.
Deborah Ethridge talked with town managers about being arrested twice for the same thing. Deborah Ethridge said her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend were having a disagreement when her daughter called 911. “We told them everything was alright but they came into my house anyway,” Deborah Ethridge said. “I didn’t tell them to come into my house.”Deborah Ethridge said her daughter was asked for her ID and when she could not find it, she ran away. Ethridge maintains she did nothing to be arrested for and has hired an attorney.
Hunt said Etheridge’s first charges were a misdemeanor. When the charges were upgraded to a felony, she had to come back in. Hunt says Etheridge and her daughter assaulted his officers. He said he didn’t just come to her house, he was called there by his officer who was in trouble in that house and called for backup. Ethridge, however, denies assaulting the officer.
Many of the complaints emanated from the town’s use of a local towing service. Town’s people complain the owner is also rude to them.
Bertha Parker said her 14 year old grandson was driving a dirt bike in a field. She said officers took her grandson’s dirt bike. “Officer McNeil told me to go talk to Mike Taylor to find out how much it would take to get the dirt bike back and he (Taylor) said chief (Hunt) told him to hold it,” Parker explained. “When I got down there Mike Taylor was real nasty. First of all I don’t have any ticket or anything.”
When she got no satisfaction, she said she went back to officers to see if she could talk to Hunt. Parker said she was told Hunt was out of town for a few days. “We need somebody we can talk to,” Parker said. “We need somebody we can depend on in Sharpsburg that is on our side.” Parker said Sharpsburg helps Taylor unfairly and has increased his business by towing locals’ cars.
Parker said her grandson is a good child who is doing well in school. Weaver advised her that Taylor did not work for the town and he could not do anything about Parker’s encounter with Taylor.
LAW AND ORDER
Hunt said he is not an unfair person. “I believe in fairness to everybody,” Hunt said after the meeting. “I don’t take rights from anybody no matter what your gender, race or religion.”
Hunt said Sharpsburg police does use the rotation of towing services, but Taylor is local and is dispatched first. “Mike Taylor lives in Sharpsburg so we use him first,” Hunt said. “If he is not available we go through the rotation. We don’t get kickbacks. If there was another towing service here, we would contact them.”
Citizens are having a problem now that there is stable law enforcement in town, Hunt said. “You have to understand there has not been anyone to hold up law and order in town and people are not used to it,” Hunt said. “We can’t just turn our heads when someone breaks the law. I am for respecting everyone’s rights.”
Hunt said many times people are driving without the correct credentials. “We stop people who have dead tags, no insurance and no driver’s license,” Hunt explained. “When they hit somebody with that car with no insurance then that other person will have to go to their own insurance. Our job is protecting people.”
Hunt said the police department does not call the towing service. He said they use a radio dispatch to contact the business
LET’S SEE RESULTS
Weaver told the women who came with complaints he would do an investigation, which included talking with Hunt and get back to them. In each case he asked for their phone numbers. He made no promises of what the time frame would be in getting back to the residents.
Dew said he is not hopeful that there will be positive results. “If the police grabbed me for just saying I want to ask a question in a meeting, I can only imagine what they do to the residents here,” Dew said. “I can only imagine what they did to the women in this town.”
Questions Dew wanted answered was why won’t the city of Sharpsburg go by their policies in tow rotation. Another question was why won’t Hunt and his staff meet with residents so they can get together and solve the issues among them. “I will have to see what happens next,” Dew said.