Blacks accuse Waxahachie PD of ‘harassment’
By 08/07/2003 00:00:00
The Ellis County Press
WAXAHACHIE - Black residents here have complained about the mistreatment they have received as a result of the police department's ongoing questioning and 'harassment' in the city's east section.
Three people spoke to the city council Monday, Aug. 4, highlighting instances where police officers have stopped teenagers riding their bikes or playing football and sometimes even ticket them.
'This is intimidation, and it's only [against] black people,' said one resident of Wyatt Street, a road police officials say has received numerous calls relating to alleged criminal activity.
Because city leaders do not have all the facts, they
referred comment and questions to Waxahachie Police Chief Bobby Whitmire, or to the municipal courts.
'We can't really respond without the facts in front of us,' said Mayor Joe Jenkins. 'Residents have commended us on the [increased] patrols in that area.'
Though the complaints of police harassment are nothing new, the residents who spoke Monday did say it was becoming a problem.
'We've had five cases where [police] stopped black kids riding on bikes, or walking,' said a parent of two young people who spoke.
'The boys riding their bikes were stopped and asked for their ID. They [police] even gave a ticket for someone walking down the street and having loud boom boxes, when they didn't even have boom boxes.'
City Manager Bob Sokoll said there were complaints of loud noise on the east side, but has heard nothing about people being ticketed for walking.
'I can't believe someone would get a ticket for walking,' he said. But, 'there's been complaints about loud noise, that's for sure.'
Whitmire said his officers could stop someone for walking in the middle of traffic, but those cases are rare. And he said it is not uncommon for several patrol cars to drive around Wyatt Street, a predominately black section of town.
'We haven't had any complaints from people,' he said.
To address the issues, the mayor and City Attorney Steve Chapman proposed holding discussions with community leaders.
'I think communication is the [key] here,' Chapman said. 'It is a compromise between safety straight on through, and I think meeting with the Ministerial Alliance would [be good].'
'We would be glad to sit down with the mayor, the police chief and address these issues,' he said.
Additionally, Jenkins said problems with the citations should be handled at the court level, where they can be appealed if necessary.