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City Manager Apologizes For GPD Chief's E-mail, No Comment From Chief

By: April Davis/ Lynnette Taylor
By: April Davis/ Lynnette Taylor

WITN tried to get the Greenville Police Chief's response to his recent controversial e-mail to the mayor about crime in downtown Greenville, but we were told he was unavailable Tuesday.

At Monday night's special meeting between Greenville's city council and the city manager, some voiced their concerns about the e-mail Police Chief Anderson sent to its members. He wrote about a fight in downtown Greenville Thursday that led to a shot being fired, but no one was hit. Anderson said in the e-mail the downtown situation is a "powder keg environment" and there needs to be leadership from the council to help prevent a dangerous situation. The tone of the e-mail offended some on the board, and the city manager even apologized. At -large city councilman Dennis Mitchell says he had never received an email from a city leader like this one.

"You want your different managers in the city to be able to talk frankly, but I think at some point it's counter productive and I think that's what the e-mail did," said Mitchell

Mayor Allen Thomas told us, he would like to put this issue behind them, so they can move on and deal with the city's business.

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An e-mail exchange between the Greenville Police Chief and mayor took center stage at the Greenville City Council meeting Monday night as council gathered to discuss finding a new chief and city manager.

Earlier in the day the city released an email from Chief William Anderson to Mayor Allen Thomas where Anderson calls the downtown area an "out of control, powder keg environment." Anderson wrote, quote "even more discouraging is to listen to a member of city council state, "What the police having been doing downtown is not working".

Mayor Thomas shared his e-mail response to the chief with WITN. In his e-mail, Thomas reminded the chief the two of them have discussed this issue in detail and questioned why people are allowed to mill around downtown. Allen listed the steps he believes are needed, including removing the barriers and preventing a carnival like atmosphere, keeping people off the streets and a new task force.

Council members, along with City Manager Wayne Bowers addressed the e-mails Monday night.

Bowers said, "I discussed it with the chief and I really want to apologize to the city council. I think it was something that shouldn't have been put in the manner it was placed and the chief, I think his heart is in the right place and he feels very strongly about how the work is being done by the police department downtown but there was probably a better way to do that."

Council Member Rose Glover said, "I didn't like the letter, did not like the wording in the letter, and I will make a response to the chief and the city manager in regards to that letter, because I don't see how we should have been called bar bashers."

Mayor Thomas said, "I think I speak for most folks in here that whatever we can do to support this police force, we're going to do it, and not just for show but for real tangible effects to make our citizens safe."

As far as the search for a new chief and city manager, it's expected to cost $70,000 and take which could take 4-6 months.

City Council plans to hire consultants to help in the search for both positions and will listen to consultant proposals through February 21st.

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The City of Greenville has released an e-mail sent from Police Chief William Anderson to Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas.

Anderson calls the downtown area an "out of control, powder keg environment."

His e-mail details a situation Thursday night, in he said officers were clearing the crowd from downtown and a fight took place.

Anderson's e-mail explains during that time, officers said a man with a gun pulled the trigger only to have the weapon misfire. That man was taken into custody.

Anderson calls on Greenville's government to "address this dangerous situation" and states it can't be on "solely on the backs of law enforcement."

Mayor Thomas shared his e-mail response to the chief with WITN.

In his e-mail, Thomas reminded the chief the two of them have discussed this issue in detail and questioned why people are allowed to mill around downtown.

Allen listed the steps he believes are needed, including removing the barriers and preventing a carnival like atmosphere, keeping people off the streets and a new task force.

Read the e-mails below.


"From: William Anderson
Sent: Friday, January 27, 2012 9:59 PM
To: Allem thomas; mercerc99@yahoo.com; Marion Blackburn; Max Joyner; Dennis Mitchell (d.mitchell@restarthumanservices.com); Kandie Smith; Rose Glover
Cc: Wayne Bowers; Police; Shelton, Jeffrey Scott
Subject: Downtown Incident

Mayor Thomas,
I thought I would share this with you. Fortunately due to swift action by our officers assisted by ABC and ALE officers another Downtown tragedy was avoided. I am forwarding this to you to once again reiterate the out of control, powder keg environment that exist in our Downtown area. Since 2007 the GPD has aggressively policed Downtown, first by implementing the Downtown Deployment Plan and then modifying it after the tragic incident that occurred in 2009. The Department has taken several steps and implemented numerous plans to address this issue. ECU has provided valuable assistance and ABC and ALE have been our partners in protecting those that visit our Downtown for nightlife activities. In order to maintain control of an out of control environment consisting of approximately 16 public/private clubs that operates openly as bars, next door to the 3rd largest university in the UNC system to being a major attraction for night life in eastern North Carolina, requires a considerable amount of human resources at a tremendous cost to the citizens of Greenville. This has got to change and this change cannot be solely on the backs of law enforcement. As I explained to you, this problem is bigger than the Police Department and will require leadership from city government to address this dangerous situation. The Special Task Force on Public Safety comprised of citizens offered several recommendations that might have provided additional tools for the City and law enforcement to address this issue, only to have those recommendations soundly rejected by City Council and members of the Task Force labeled as "Bar Busters". Even more discouraging is to listen to a member of City Council state, "what the police having been doing Downtown is not working". My position is, if what we have been doing was not working, there would have been a lot more bodies to clean up. This is not the first, nor will it be the last incident of this type. Cameras and additional lighting will help, but it's not a solution. I hope you take the near tragedy described below seriously and appreciate the work all law enforcement is doing to keep those visiting Downtown safe.

Excerpt from IMPACT's end of shift report this past Thursday night. Officers believe the suspect pulled the trigger only for the weapon to misfire. He then racked another round in the chamber.

Downtown:
Downtown had a large crowd tonight. ECU Lt. Sugg attended the downtown briefing and provided 6 of his officers to assist at the Reade Circle/4th St area.
Club Phoenix had approximately 100 patrons. They left the area without any problems.

12-5761 Arrest: Equan Bowden 10/02/1991 410 Hooks River Rd A. Goldsboro, NC.
Officers were finishing clearing the crowd from downtown and starting to collect barricades. A fight started in the intersection beside Michaelangelos on 5th St. Multiple officers started towards the fight when they heard the sound of metal hit the ground. The suspect involved in the fight had dropped his gun. He then retrieved his gun and started pointing it at the victim. The suspect was backing up and still pointing the gun. He then racked the slide of his gun ejecting a live round on the ground. It is unknown if he attempted to fire first or if he just racked the slide. ABC and AlE officers then challenged the suspect in front off 5th St. Distillery. The suspect turned and fled on foot west bound on 5th St. He was quickly caught in the small parking lot directly behind Cubbies. The gun was found near him in the parking lot. It was a small 25 auto handgun. He was charged with assault by pointing a gun, carrying a concealed weapon, going armed to the terror of the public, resist obstruct delay, and underage possession of alcohol.

We would like to thank ABC Officer Rader and the officers from ALE for assisting us with this case. They did a great job in this extremely dangerous situation.

Chief William J. Anderson
Greenville Police Department"


E-mail response from Mayor Thomas:

"From: Allen Thomas
Sent: Saturday, January 28, 2012 1:04 AM
To: William Anderson
Subject: Re: Downtown Incident

Chief Anderson,

Thank you for this incident report. It further enforces my concerns which we (you and I) have discussed. There has to be a different approach downtown. First, we have to be candid. Are there more clubs downtown today than 10, 15 years ago? How did they handle the job? Are there more than when you took the job? What has changed? What particular element from the taskforce suggestions do you feel would have specifically prevented this incident described from Thursday? Based on the report--- this incident happened in the middle of an intersection? Why are crowds of people--- allowed to mill around in the middle of the street?

If we are going to get serious about solutions we first have to get real about what is required. For a plan to have credibility it has to include and be a product of the actual stakeholders impacted. The previous taskforce--- did not include ABC officials, bar owners and property owners downtown, the people actually most impacted. That was a mistake and a fatal flaw. They are the frontline of the effort. Their input and cooperation is absolutely necessary for a plan of action to have an opportunity to succeed. Why they were excluded? I can't say. That was previous leadership's decision. What I can say is, we can continue to deal with pushback--- or we can re-energize this process, reconvening with actual stakeholders and get to real solutions which have collective support.

You and I have had this discussion in detail and you know where I stand. Blocking off the streets and allowing roving groups of people to mill around in a Halloween-like atmosphere in the intersection of a blocked off enclosed space actually contributes to the problem. It literally creates a "club outside the club," atmosphere which attracts hundreds of people from surrounding counties who--- may not be of age, who may be carrying weapons or other contraband with no intention of going into a club & scrutiny and screen process. Many are hovering around outside harassing actual patrons and looking for soft targets of opportunity. We literally are creating a carnival like atmosphere outside--- attractive to people with bad intentions to hover around the periphery of downtown Greenville clubs, people with no intention of entering or spending a dime in our establishments or contributing to our tax base.

You know my opinion. We have discussed it in detail. We need to take away the outside atmosphere, take away the unscreened free loitering zone which is so attractive to those who are up to no good. We have to get real with what activities create a safe environment and what activities do not. 1.) The barriers need to go. They are ominous, They are killing the businesses of Armadillo Grill and other tax paying business owners who are buried inside these downtown barricaded zones. Replace the barriers with permanent speed bumps to control traffic and speed.
2.) We need to keep people off the streets, keep on the sidewalks and courteously moving to their destination. 3.) We need to make downtown "very unattractive" for bad people who are up to no good, free-loading in the area. If they aren't willing to go through club security screening, to patronize our establishments in a nice orderly line then we need to make it clear this is not a free-load loitering zone for folks up to no good. Word will spread fast enough --- and most will simply go another community with less restrictive rules. 4.) We need more lighting and cameras-- downtown and parking areas. 5.) Need to re-establish a new standing taskforce (as mentioned above) of the actual stakeholders downtown with regular communication and implementation of recommendations. 6.) Need to communicate our rules-- with officers and volunteers handing out flyers to patrons downtown and postings on signage along each block.

Chief--- you, I and almost everyone agree there must be a paradigm shift downtown. The question lies in what path we take. Beyond what has been said above--- one thing is clear. We've tried it the current way and it clearly is not meeting your expectations. Therefore it is time to try something different. If you are willing to solicit inclusion from the stakeholders downtown--- I am confident we will be well on our way to getting everyone on board and gain traction to make progress. I look forward to speaking with you in further detail soon and doing everything we can to support the Greenville Police force in this effort.

Best regards,

Allen

Allen Thomas, Mayor
City of Greenville, NC"


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