Local News

Fayetteville PD wants to improve its image with community

Posted October 21, 2014 1:26 p.m. EDT
Updated October 21, 2014 5:29 p.m. EDT

— The U.S. Department of Justice is lending a helping hand to the Fayetteville Police Department, which wants to improve its relationship with the community to better fight crime.

Chief Harold Medlock and Ronald Davis, director of the justice department's Community-Oriented Policing Services, announced the new initiative Tuesday morning.

Medlock said the partnership isn't about any particular problem but a promise that he and his officers have made to protect and serve the community – with dignity and concern for citizens.

One of Medlock's first objectives since he became police chief last year has been to build a relationship with the community. When he took over in February 2013, the department was being scrutinized over allegations of racial profiling. Medlock also talked about combating gun violence.

One area where Medlock wants officers to better connect, he said, is with young people.

He said he was frustrated during the investigation into the shooting death of Joseph Braxton III – a 16-year-old boy shot and killed outside a birthday party last month – when no one would come forward to help police make arrests.

Authorities have since arrested five people in Braxton's death.

“We have not connected with them as a police department, as I feel like now we should have," Medlock said. "So, we're now starting to identify some strategies. I think this process with COPS is going to help us do that."

Fayetteville joins cities, such as Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Baltimore, where the federal government, at the request of law enforcement, is taking a critical look at local departments' policies and procedures, at what it's doing right and what needs improving.

"We have over 80 researchers, practitioners and volunteers that are working to identify kind of a best practices review, a policy review, a literature review," Davis said.

The review will take about will take about six months and will also include input from residents. It will take another 18 months in implement changes.

One area that will be evaluated, he added, is the use of force and deadly force. The question isn't whether an officer can use such force, but should he or she.

"Deadly force should be the last result," Davis said. "The officer should do it because he or she feels that there is nothing else they can do in their heart and soul to save their life or that of the community – not just because the conditions existed that legally justifies it."

In 2012, according to Medlock, there were seven cases in which an officer used force that didn't necessarily result in death. Last year, there were four cases, and so far this year, there have been none.