Six and a half years ago, I was appointed by the District Attorney of Rapides Parish, Charles Wagner, to serve on a committee that was assigned the task of looking into complaints from citizens regarding local law enforcement. Three other pastors served with me on this committee, all of whom were African-American. This is our report. Nothing much came of it but a watered-down version of our last recommendation, a commission with no subpoena power.
When the District Attorney set up the press conference, it was made to appear that our report was simply the ranting of one Black minister, Solomon Shorter. The television never brought out that this was an official committee of the District Attorney or that we were comprised of people from both races. The newspaper never published our report, so I am publishing it today, March 3, 2003, because it is very timely in view of the terrible events of February 20, 2003, which left three young men dead and five police officers wounded. Two of the dead men were police officers.
Our police chief then was John Ritchie; today we have Tommy Cicardo. Charles Wagner, our former district attorney, is dead and James Downs has taken his place. The make-up of our City Council has also changed.
of the Committee to
The following persons were appointed to the Committee that was
charged with evaluating the Felker Street Incident:
The District Attorney, Mr. Charles Wagner, who acted as convener
Law enforcement personnel:
Chief of Detectives Ronnie Sellers with the Rapides Parish
Detective Dwayne Brevell with the Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office;
Detective Claude Weatherford with the Rapides Parish Sheriff's
Investigator Mike Rodgers with the Rapides Parish District
Non-law enforcement personnel:
Pastor Donny Granvel of the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church;
Pastor James Hardison of the Live Oak Missionary Baptist Church;
Pastor Solomon Shorter of the True Vine Missionary Baptist Church;
Pastor Bob Vincent of the Grace Presbyterian Church.
Investigators from the Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney's Office conducted an in depth investigation into the complaints and allegations against some members of the Alexandria Police Department concerning the Felker Street incident of September 28, 1996.
investigation began on Monday, October 7, 1996, and concluded on Tuesday,
October 22, 1996. Appeals
were made through the local media requesting complainants from the Felker
Street incident who felt that they were mistreated or unduly harassed by
some members of the Alexandria Police Department to please present such
complaints to the duly appointed investigators at 610 Desoto Street,
Alexandria, Louisiana. No one
came forward to any member of the Committee to lodge a complaint against
any police officer. Residents
of Felker Street were interviewed by the investigators but did not present
any complaints against the Alexandria Police Department.
of the lack of complainants we were unable to determine culpability on the
part of the Alexandria Policemen at the Felker Street incident. However, it does not preclude that improprieties did not
remains a deep-seated mistrust and strong aversion for the Alexandria
Police Department within most of the Black Community.
Because there have been reports of overt mistreatment, discourtesy,
sexual impropriety and undue maligning, not only by White policemen, but
Black ones as well, we recommend the following actions be taken.
That the City Council establish a committee to review all policies
of the Alexandria Police Department in order to enhance the image and
rapport between the Black Community and the Police.
Some items that should receive special attention are:
That all members of the Alexandria Police Department receive annual
training in cultural diversity and community involvement.
That candidates hired as policemen must be at least (21) twenty-one
years of age and undergo psychological evaluation.
That policemen use only that force that is necessary, remembering
that they are public servants with a trust to uphold and enforce the law
That the Chief make himself more visible and vocal throughout the
Alexandria Community through public relations and attendance of certain
B. That the Mayor along with the City Council establish a commission to monitor, investigate and make recommendations based upon complaints received from the citizenry of Alexandria and that the Mayor, Police Chief and the commission meet at least quarterly to evaluate the state of the city and receive the citizens’ input through the commission.If these recommendations seem strong, the original, unedited version was even stronger.
A. That Mayor Edward G. Randolph along with Alexandria Police Chief John E. Ritchie establish a methodology to enhance the image and rapport between the Alexandria Police Department and the Black Community by:
1. Ensuring that all members of the Alexandria Police Department receive annual training in cultural diversity and community involvement.
2. Initiating a policy that candidates hired as policemen must be at least (21) twenty-one years of age and undergo psychological evaluation.
3. Ensuring that policemen, while on duty, will not fraternize in the homes of single or divorced women.
4. Ensuring that policemen use only that force that is necessary.
5. Reminding each shift that they are not lords over the people but servants of the public and that they have been given a trust to uphold and enforce the law impartially.
6. The Chief’s making himself more visible and vocal throughout the Alexandria Community through public relations and attendance of certain community activities.
B. That the Mayor, along with the City Council, establish a committee or commission to monitor, investigate and make recommendations based upon complaints received from the citizenry of Alexandria.
C. That Mayor, Police Chief and the Committee/Commission meet at least quarterly to evaluate the state of the city and receive the citizens’ input from the Committee/Commission.
In view of the current crisis in the city of Alexandria, this report has significance. It is always easy to ask "what if" questions. Alexandria stands in need of prayer and divine wisdom.