Local News

Fayetteville chief: Every officer-involved shooting 'tears at fabric of who we are'

Posted July 12

Map Marker  Find News Near Me

— Every law enforcement agency nationwide feels the impact of the fatal officer-involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota last week and the subsequent attack on Dallas police that killed five officers, Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock says.

Each shooting – of officers and of civilians – undermines efforts to improve relationships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve, Medlock said Tuesday.

"Every one of those officer-involved deadly uses of force where a citizen, their life is taken, it tears at the fabric of who we are with our relationship with the community," he said.

Medlock inherited an agency plagued by accusations of racial profiling when he took charge of the Fayetteville Police Department a little more than three years ago. He and his staff have worked hard since then to improve community relations, including asking the U.S. Department of Justice for input on how the police department could operate better. The federal agency made dozens of suggestions in December but noted that the racial disparity in police traffic stops is declining and commended efforts to build a stronger relationship with Fayetteville residents.

The chief also has been a vocal advocate for publicly releasing footage from police body cameras and dashboard cameras, although a new state law restricts access to such video to people depicting in it – and then only if a police chief or sheriff agrees.

Medlock said one of the keys to bridge the gap between police and the community is to change the way young people look at police. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch met with the department's Youth Advisory Council during a May visit to Fayetteville to study its community policing program.

Addison Larson, a Fayetteville police cadet, said last week's shootings haven't changed desire to become a police officer.

"I've always had an interest, and hopefully through my involvement with the cadet program and my future in law enforcement, I can help the community to where they don't look at officers as the enemy," Larson said Tuesday.

There are five college-age students in the cadet program, and Medlock said he hopes to expand that effort. He added that police officer training is essential for community building, but officers have to get out in the streets and get to know the people they protect and serve.

For example, Medlock said he met community activist Kevin Brooks by going into his Fayetteville barber shop. Brooks said he wants to work with the chief to build relationships with police across the city.

"The thing that happened last week didn't change that. It didn't change that at all," Brooks said of the shootings. "I wanted the chief to know that I'm still here and I'm still willing – and there are others out here that are willing – to do other things to try to help each community get better – the police community as well as our community."


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • William James Jul 13, 10:23 a.m.
    user avatar

    The only way Police are going to regain the trust of the general public is to start firing bad cops before they kill someone, stop using physical force against protesters because it proves their point, and stop ramping up PD's to mirror Military because the goal of LE is not to kill the enemy. Also, if an officer made a "good shoot" why wouldn't the video be open to the public? It would prove or validate the officers action and give the public a chance to see the material first hand vs. speculation. Also, its not fair that Good Police are getting criticism, harassment, and now being shot because of the actions of bad police. By using force, being defensive, and hiding video footage it makes the problem worse.

  • Stacie Hagwood Jul 13, 8:12 a.m.
    user avatar

    There are no simple answers, and a changing of mindset from all is necessary to make improvements in relations between police and the public. One thing is certain: Bad police officers are as much a threat to the safety of the good officers, as are the criminals. Every poor decision (and granted, mistakes in the heat of the moment are inevitable from time to time) and abuse of power ratchets up suspicion and the level of force by those who feel they could be victims of that poor judgment and abuse of power, leading to a "shoot them before they shoot me" mentality and the nut cases like the Dallas shooter who feel the need to "even the score." I remember how incredibly hot and bulky a bullet proof vest was, and yet I implore all officers to please wear theirs...every day, all the time.

  • Joseph Shepard Jul 12, 10:43 p.m.
    user avatar

    Why is it that everyone wants to blame the LEO's in every instance?? When will we ever get around to the discussion of the conditions and circumstances within the African American community and culture which generate the conditions of suspicion, fear and trepidation of LEO's that lead to these tragic events? Why must the LEO's always be blamed??? Does the African American community not bear some of the responsibility??? Look at the statistics regarding African American violence, criminality and malevolence that permeates the African American community. Is it any wonder that LEO's (of all races) have a heightened sense of danger when approaching African American males?? When will the discussion turn openly to those conditions? Or will all the blame continue to be placed on the cops???

  • Demute Sainte Jul 12, 8:51 p.m.
    user avatar

    Who came up with the phrase "Who we are".... I mean. "We" alludes to the premise its everyone... when clearly it is not.

    As for officer involved shootings... I dont know of a single law enforcement officer that hopes to be involved in one. And I've met several officers that over an entire career never once even had to draw their weapons.