New Winston-Salem Police Chief Barry Rountree made national headlines last week for all the wrong reasons.
Blogs and web sites that specialize in strange, unusual news could not resist a story about a soon-to-be police chief accidentally shooting an innocent woman just days before he was set to be sworn in. The readers’ comments at these web sites rang with stinging commentaries. Some suggested that the law enforcement veteran double-up on his practice time at the firing range; others were simply incensed that a police officer would fire a weapon at a dog, even one, reportedly, in attack mode.
While the entire situation has been an embarrassment to Rountree and the city, we hope that we all can move past it. The chief has protected and served Winston-Salem for more than 25 years – too long to have his many good deeds and hard work overshadowed by events that transpired over a matter of minutes.
Some have lashed out at the chief for responding to a call in the first place. The prevailing notion is that those in the department’s hierarchy should keep their uniforms clean and guns holstered. We find it refreshing that Rountree did not pause to respond to an incident that was apparently occurring in his immediate vicinity. A chief on the ground with his troops is better suited to address issues that may arise and is more likely to earn the respect of his force.
Rountree has been mostly silent about the incident. Although the State Bureau of Investigation’s quickie investigation found that he acted appropriately, he reportedly still has to clear an internal WSPD inquiry. After all has been settled, we urge Rountree to address the issue head-on and to offer a public apology to the victim, Tamara Whitt, who claims that Rountree has not said “sorry” and was slow to inquire about her condition after she was injured.
Cops have a notorious reputation for refusing to fess up to their mistakes, especially when they have their departments and clean SBI reports maintaining that they did nothing wrong. We hope the chief is not one of those kind of officers. Although the SBI has found no fault with Rountree’s actions, an innocent resident of the city that he has sworn to protect and serve was injured as the result of a bullet he fired. Apologizing should be a no-brainer.
Some are finding it hard to reconcile recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The High Court advanced the cause of gays and lesbians, while turning the clock back for another minority group – African Americans.
Last week, the Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – which narrowly defined marriage as between one man and one woman – and California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, clearing the way for same sex couples to receive a bevy of federal benefits and tie the knot in Cali.
It was hard to believe that this was the same court that a week earlier sent the Civil Rights Movement back to the Stone Age with its decision to kill key provisions of the Voting Rights Act.
Are justices under the false impression that blacks have overcome and no longer need measures like the VRA?
To the chagrin of many, the struggle for gay rights has been dubbed the new Civil Rights Movement. The gay community has faced similar struggles with job discrimination and social persecution, but white gays and lesbians can’t relate to being denied a ballot because of their sexual orientation, a fact that many blacks in the gay community freely acknowledge.
It’s frustrating that the High Court can be regressive and progressive in such a short span. The truth is that this country still has a long way to go when it comes to respecting and protecting the rights of all of its citizens, and the Court diminishing the federal government’s role in helping to achieve those goals is a supreme injustice.