Board member Sutton wants Raleigh police apology

Posted July 21, 2010
Updated July 22, 2010

— A Wake County school board member almost arrested in a scuffle between protesters and police said Wednesday he's owed an apology.

Keith Sutton, who represents East Raleigh District 4, said that police officers grabbed him during a break at Tuesday's school board meeting while he was caught in a protest against a controversial change to the county’s student assignment policy.

"I think an apology would be appropriate," Sutton said Wednesday afternoon. "If that happens or doesn't happen, that's certainly not a dealbreaker for me, but I do think an apology would be appropriate."

School board staff intervened, and police released Sutton.

"I think the officers should have known who I was," Sutton said, adding he had been at the school board table for at least 30 minutes prior to the incident.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan stopped short of issuing an apology, saying he would be willing to meet with Sutton to stress the importance of not interfering in police officers' work.

"While I understand these are challenging times for the members of the board, I must insist that they not physically place themselves among demonstrators who are being actively engaged by officers taking police action," Dolan said.

Sutton said his intention wasn't to impede officers but to help protect a young girl caught in the middle of the demonstration.

Sutton says he'd like an apology Sutton says he'd like an apology

Nineteen people were arrested in several protests Tuesday over the board majority's decision to move toward a community-based student assignment policy that's eventually expected to take the place of the current practice of busing students to achieve socio-economic diversity.

Nearly a dozen police officers and extra security personnel were on hand for Tuesday's meeting. Sutton said he thinks the police presence might have made the situation worse.

"I think the use of force, particularly in terms of numbers of officers that were there, only served to incite rather than to calm," he said.

But school board Chairman Ron Margiotta defended the increased security presence and said he thought Sutton might have been trying to get arrested.

"I'm not sure it's because of confusion. I am not sure he did not want to be arrested," Margiotta said.

"I think it's regrettable that that's the opinion of Mr. Margiotta," Sutton said. "As an elected official and member of the school board – and also as an employee of the state of North Carolina – I would certainly not put myself in a position to be arrested."

Spending on security has increased in the past eight months since a new board majority took control of the school board and started talking about scrapping the decade-old busing policy.

From July to November of last year the school system spent $451.58 on security at board meetings.

From December until April, it spent nearly $15,000 on security because of an increased public interest and high public turnout at meetings.


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  • mulemalone Jul 30, 2010

    I am a little late to the party. I must say it seems as if alot of posters would like to return to the 50's and turn the fire hoses, dogs and blue eyed neandertal like creatures with billy clubs on the outside agitators. History is as history does.

  • 4cww44 Jul 22, 2010

    I'm 66 years old, have lived all over the world, which gives me lots of experience with peoples of different ethnicities and ideas. I don't understand why the South is still being used as a whipping post for its past. No northern or western city is engaged in bussing when there is neighborhood schools of mostly one ethnicity and social economic backgrounds. When will Sutton and Hoseah Williams and those like them quit sturring up trouble in the south or at least be equil and work for ghetto schools in New York City and places like that.

  • com_mon_sents Jul 22, 2010

    pardon me...he said "young girl"...well if was any of the "young girls" that were up there, they are big enough to get up there and fire off at the mouth, they are big enough to pay the consequences...and you will see from any video, the police didn't do anything rough or out of hand.

  • com_mon_sents Jul 22, 2010

    Well we were told he was trying to protect a little girl. I haven't seen that, then I have read somewhere else that he was protecting an elderly lady with a walker. This is shown in one of the youtube videos. However, at the same time another officer was holding this elderly lady by the arm and trying to help as well. But several seconds later it pans back and keith is still looking in on the crowd in the middle and was holding out his jacket out like he was "blocking" something , that's just what it looks to me, not saying that's what he was doing. HOWEVER, he had plenty of time to get out of there. The board was also told to leave before the arrests were made. Why did Keith decide to "save the day". When you put yourself in the middle of police work, you can and will get in trouble as well.

  • BigfootBeliever Jul 22, 2010

    Some people demand apology. Some people in the same situation would just move on. I wonder why that might be? It makes one pauses and say, hmmmm.

  • Remy Jul 22, 2010

    "As for the board member he should have been arrested. Stay out of the way next time."drughound

    What are you on? Any man respectable man should always be willing to step in and help a young woman when needed. I guess we know that you are not one of those men. However, I do not think he needs an apology, the police were only doing their jobs. Simple mistake.

  • too Jul 22, 2010

    I don't see this little girl Sutton was "trying to protect":

  • dws Jul 22, 2010

    stevensmithsr, please expand upon your comment "go ahead and change the busing for diversity policy and you will see a "protest" far beyond your imagination."

  • stevensmithsr Jul 22, 2010

    This post is so true and a reflection on the racist who hide amongst good people. If you think these protest are disruptive, go ahead and change the busing for diversity policy and you will see a "protest" far beyond your imagination.

    When blacks voice their opinions it's 'protesting'...when whites voice their opinions it's 'freedom of speech'.
    July 22, 2010 8:38 a.m

  • stevensmithsr Jul 22, 2010

    So the KKK is back and hiding on the school board. Common sense tells you that confining children to a school in their neighborhood can only result in denying our children an opportunity to experience people and cultures outside their non-diverse neighborhood. Anyone who does not realize that changing policy on school assignment will re-segregate the school system are choosing to be blind by choice.