Man on a mission

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Man on a mission

It was a cold day in early December when Covenant Church pastor Harold Bare received an urgent e-mail from COMPASS. The troubled shelter group had leased the Hope Community Center in the 10th and Page neighborhood from Bare’s nonprofit, the Hope Foundation, during the month of November. But they had yet to pay rent and now they never would. COMPASS was flat broke and tired of fighting with the city over zoning. They were dead.

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Yet, there was obviously a need. The two-building complex had been an evening shelter for a full month, and on the day of COMPASS’ withdrawal, some 30 men, women and children were expecting a place to huddle. Worse, it was starting to snow. There were scant hours until the freezing night.

“At 5 o’clock, he calls me and says, ‘Josh, be there at 7,’” says Pastor Bare’s 28-year-old son. He had been back from school only a few months and was living at home with his parents. After a construction job petered out, he was also out of work. So he was willing to head over to Hope, where he met up with Erik Speer, a COMPASS employee. “Erik stayed that first night and then came and checked in on me for about 30 minutes the next night, and that was it,” Josh says. “I’ve been running the shelter ever since.”

“We got caught with our britches on fire and had to run,” says his father Harold, immediately regretting the coarseness of his language. “We didn’t have time to go sit down and figure out what our strategy was. I had to immediately—and for several weeks—put every available minute into calling people and saying, ‘Look, you’ve got to help us.’” Through private donations Hope was able to pay for 50 new blue cots so the shelter residents didn’t have to sleep on the floor anymore. His congregation and some neighboring churches pitched in with meals.


Josh spends five nights a week with Hope’s homeless.

The exercise in emergency relief was hectic and jarring, but not out of order. Covenant Church on Rio Road had bought the site on 11th Street NW in the fall of 1998 to put a permanent footprint in Charlottesville’s inner city. “We found this building and said, ‘Let’s buy it,’” says Pastor Bare of the site that was previously a church, telephone company, and a furniture store. So Covenant remodeled it and built an adjoining building. “The Hope Center is designated for social and economic lift,” the pastor says. Hope Community Center officially opened in 1999 (and was later transferred to a nonprofit now presided over by Bare) on a street and in a neighborhood known for crack distribution, among other violations of the law. A police substation occupies part of Hope’s main building for that very reason. “That’s why we’re there in a very hard community,” Harold says, “where a lot of people are being taken advantage of.”

Over the years, the Community Center has housed after-school programs, church meetings on Sunday, and Tai Chi classes at night (among numerous uses), but not until November did it serve as a shelter for the homeless. And not until February did the center violate city zoning when it was cited for running a shelter in a residential neighborhood after someone anonymously complained. “Cease and desist,” they were told by the city Zoning Inspector. Then they were graciously given a reprieve until this month’s Board of Zoning Appeals meeting. There, on April 17, the board ruled Hope can continue to remain open as they apply for a zoning amendment, a process that can take up to four months.

The hearing itself was an emotional affair. Following the Bares’ initial testimony before the board, numerous homeless told stories of how the Hope Community Center had saved their lives.

“If you close Hope you will really hurt people,” said Steve Biddle, who works a graveyard shift for CVS, but uses Hope mainly for its shower so he doesn’t stink at work.

“I never thought this would happen to me,” said Deborah Taliaferro, who had kicked a 15-year heroin addiction and has bounced around from shelter to shelter. “Oh my god, I’ve never seen so much love in a human being,” she said of Josh Bare. “He sleeps with us, watching over us.”


To show their gratitude, Hope’s homeless help keep the center clean.

“I don’t think anyone here would argue with the noble mission of Hope,” the BZA’s Jon Fink said. Perhaps Pastor Bare’s words were still ringing in his ears. “I don’t want an embarrassing moment for the city,” the pastor had told them only minutes earlier.

Apparently, neither did the BZA as they reached a compromise, supporting the city zoning inspector’s ruling while requesting that Read Brodhead defer any action until the Bares can go through the lengthy process of applying for a zoning text amendment. “I’m not going to kick homeless people out tonight,” Brodhead said.

This leave the Bares 30 days to file the first piece of paperwork with the city planning commission, which means the shelter will remain open for at least a few more months.

Roots

Covenant Church started in 1952 in a Downtown storefront with only 11 people. By the early 1980s, the multiethnic congregation was in need of new digs and moved out to a newly constructed complex on Rio Road around the same time that they got a new pastor with a sociology degree from UVA.    

One of the first things Pastor Bare did was to make a connection with Charlottesville’s inner city, renting a section of Tonsler Park from the city for more than 10 years. “Every week we would bus children from the projects in, clothe, feed, nurture and counsel them,” he says.

Born in the mountains of North Carolina, Harold is the son of a preacher. “I had been born into a family viewing the world from a Pentecostal perspective,” he writes in They Call Me Pentecostal, one of his several books. “It was a comfortable and warm world espousing all the virtues that are worthy of man in his finest form.”
 
The words of the father could easily be those of his youngest son. Born in Belmont in 1980, Josh Bare graduated from Covenant High School in 1998 and left to attend Lee University, a small, Pentecostal college in Cleveland, Tennessee, that offered him a soccer scholarship.


Covenant and neighboring churches supply the food Hope’s residents eat. It ranges from broiled chicken to Sloppy Joes.

“All I wanted to be was a professional soccer player,” he says. He was an All American in 1999, but then blew his knee out the next year and his world started to unravel. With his soccer career over like that, he settled on earning his M.B.A. at Regent University, Pat Robertson’s school in Norfolk. Then personal crises led to Josh taking time off from school five credits short of his master’s. Two months later, he was anxiously sleeping at Hope, hundreds of miles away from a baby girl he only sees once a month (and who lives with her mother and his former fiance in another state). Instead of watching over his newborn, he was supervising abandoned adults.

“When I first got there, safety was an issue,” he says of those first few weeks at the center. “I was worried, even though nothing ever happened.”

Not that he really had time to worry. Josh was practically living at Hope at that point, unable to sleep and staying up most of the night, only to drive back to his parents’ house in Greene and crash during the day. Then he would wake up, and head back into town, where he had to be at the center by no later than 8pm when the bus would start to roll in.

“I think I worked like eight or nine days in a row during Christmas,” Josh says. So the business major asked his dad for a little compensation and received only a pittance for a 13-hour shift, a minimum of five days a week.

It takes a Village

Spending all that time at the Center also gave Josh the opportunity to get to know the homeless of Charlottesville. Some were from the other shelters and merely appreciated the change in scenery. Others had been turned away for breaking rules like drinking or missing appointments with counselors. Some were crazy—Josh says a number of his people have case managers at Region Ten, a local agency that treats mental illness. Then there’s the older lady who says she is staying there because the military wants her to. A month after he took over, Josh procured nylon bags so his “clients” could leave their stuff at Hope when they went out into the world every day. The lady who insisted she was there for the military carried around three bags that must have weighed 40 pounds each, but Josh worked on her. “I had to tell her the military wanted to leave her stuff behind,” he says.

Doing things like procuring bags was only a precursor, as father and son Bare tried to make their investment of time and money worthwhile. “We decided to do more than just a cot and some food,” says Josh. His mother, Laila, is on the board of Piedmont Virginia Community College, and by mid-January Hope had nine of its people attending classes there. They also got together a computer class in February and regularly had people over from Covenant church to teach the Bible and just talk.

“I’ve been in the 10th and Page neighborhood doing youth mentoring since I was 14 or 15,” says Josh, his short red hair matted down with gel. “We’d roll out some music and hot dogs. We would do dramas, and I would jump on a platform and speak. It was fun.” At 28, he is easily the most youthful in the community of people that serve the area’s homeless. The fourth-generation Pentecostal (his mother’s father was also a pastor) exudes confidence and compassion, an odd combination that translates into a calm resolve that Hope’s residents feed off.

“I try to act as the hands and feet of God,” Josh says, putting it another way. Gradually, he began to see a change in his new friends. Just knowing their names seemed to make a big difference to people starving for some sort of connection, by and large rootless except for the generosity of Hope. More than anything, the initial fear was replaced by a certain degree of trust, “because they see how much we care about them,” says Josh.

That’s when “Hope Village” was born. “They started calling it that,” says Josh. A communal spirit fell over Hope, it seemed, as the residents started to help out, cleaning the bathrooms and putting up the dishes. Hope had become more than just a shelter. It was a place to rely on for succor.

“Men have come up to me crying, ‘Josh, I need you to pray for me,’” he says. “That’s a big thing for a man on the street to come up to me and ask for prayer. Not only that, guys who tell me they love me, guys who give me hugs in front of other men, men who have told me I’m safe there, that they will protect me.”

Then, just a few weeks ago, Hope held a resume improvement day at the Center and got more than 50 homeless people ready for a job fair the next day at PVCC. On March 25, a white Covenant bus arrived at 9:15am in a parking lot on Ridge Street where a crowd of 20 or more waited around, resumes in hand. The sun was out and hopes were up. “I feel good about today,” said one passenger to Josh. “I feel good about it, too,” he responded, his own resume in hand. Ever since Hope was cited by the city, the business major has been looking for a day job himself.

Two hours later, Josh was guiding the group of mostly men around to various employers in PVCC’s packed main hall. “How’s the job search going?” he said to one homeless man whose eyes were dim, his red greasy hair loosely covered with a red bandana. A white tennis shoe covered one foot but the other was wrapped in an old ankle brace. Only a dingy tube sock covered his toes. In his hand he held a resume that listed two startling prior jobs: nuclear decontamination and off-shore drilling! Unsurprisingly, he had failed to find any offers yet. “We’ve got to get you some work,” Josh told him.

“I’d even do dishwashing at this point,” the man shot back, and Josh grabbed him by his sleeve and headed over to a nearby table where they were looking for just that, as a matter of fact. Now, the former power plant employee may decontaminate plates for a living.

“When we got back, they were so excited,” says Josh. “You could have cried just for the emotion that they had about somebody listening to them, and getting them jobs.” Two of his keep were immediately hired (even if Josh wasn’t), one as kitchen help, the other for the city in maintenance work.

“We hired two of them here at Covenant two days a week,” says Pastor Bare. Those guys, Bruce and Leo, are familiar faces on the homeless scene. When they are not over on Rio cleaning Covenant Church, they can usually be found doing something at Hope. Maybe they’re mowing the yard or picking up discarded trash, all part of Hope’s effort to appease a city that has sought to quell them. 

And in the end…

“We’ve been doing something we thought the city would approbate and approve,” says Harold, a tall, commanding man with a wayward, lucid look in his eyes and a childlike smile that he uses to punctuate his phrases. He is also the author of more than 1,500 articles, he says, and several books, including Hell Is War, which begins with an allegorical poem detailing the literal war between Lucifer and Jehovah and their respective minions. More revealing is the 1993 book, They Call Me Pentecostal, an explication of his belief system. “Because of the doctrine of the Rapture, Pentecostals intrinsically communicate a sense of urgency,” he writes on page 75. “Missionary efforts are predicated in a firm commitment that the Rapture is imminent. Every effort must be made to share the gospel of Christ with every man and woman on earth.”

“We believe we are Christians driven with a passion to try and touch our world, yes,” Pastor Bare admits, “but if you put your preaching ahead of your caring, they’re not going to listen to the preaching.”

For that reason, Bare says that conversion or even attendance at church is not required to receive refuge under Hope’s wings. “We need to minister to them through caring and love and building trust and relationship,” he says. “If a man’s hungry he doesn’t want a long sermon.”

As a result, there is very little actual evangelizing at Hope, except if you count the prayer Josh says before every dinner. “I use that time to thank Him for the Center, what Pastor Bare is doing and the board in providing the shelter, for the families that are taking the time to provide the meal, and God give us strength and peace tonight so that people will be able to get up the next day and go find a job,” Josh says. “That’s essentially my prayer every night.” As the food simmers, men bow their heads until Josh finishes with an “Amen.” With that, he drifts behind a fold-up table and begins to spoon out whatever is for dinner. Donated by churches and individuals, it could be anything from broiled chicken to Sloppy Joes. When it is finished and the place cleaned, the women drift over to their part of the center while many of the men go into the gymnasium where their cots are lined in rows. 

“Guys have their spot in the gym,” says Josh. “They want to have the same space. They’re used to it; they’ve been sleeping there for four months.”

Others sit in the glass-walled foyer, watching TV, talking or even drawing. Outside, men smoke or just lean against the wall. All the while, Josh is in constant motion, his attention grabbed by various residents wanting a moment of his time. Maybe they need him to sign a form or just to give them a bar of soap.

“Josh is a good man,” says someone who goes by “New Orleans” and is smoking a cigarette. “He makes sure we eat and shower.” As Josh goes to look for clean towels, Orleans tells the story of how he came here a few weeks ago from Memphis, where he and his girlfriend landed after their home in the Ninth Ward was destroyed when the levees broke during Hurricane Katrina. When they came to Charlottesville, where his mother lives, he first tried the Salvation Army on Ridge Street and was told to come back in a week, but when he did they were still full. Try the Hope Center, he was told. Just meet the bus at Nolan’s convenience store across the street at 7:30.

When PACEM, the winter-only roving shelter, closed its doors in mid-March, Hope saw its numbers jump and had to initially turn away four or five for a few nights. Per fire code, the shelter is only permitted 42 occupants. As a result, it took Orleans and his girl three tries, but they finally made it onto the good bus and have been staying at Hope Village for almost two weeks now. “This place is a blessing,” he says. His girl has applied for a job at UVA and he is going over to a drugstore soon to talk about work. One of their managers happens to be staying at Hope, too, and told him about some openings.

Along with the 40 others at Hope, Orleans is one of the 75-100 people that have come through the Center’s doors since December, which is still only a section of the area’s homeless. According to figures recently released by the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless, there were 292 homeless people on January 30 staying in shelters and with other social service agencies in Charlottesville. Forty-five of those were at Hope that January day. 

“If we could move the dialogue in the community to a higher level,” says Pastor Bare, his baritone dropping as his eyes glare. “What is the psychology and nature of these people and are they meritorious and hopeful for redemption? Do we believe that there are those there who can be reconstituted into society, can be gotten into jobs, that can be given a little chance? Do we believe that it would be in the best interest of you and me for the ones that aren’t to actually have a place to go pee, a restroom instead of a bush? Do we believe that?”

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Man on a mission

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Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo Sr. is no slave overseer. But he knows the specter of the slave patrol colors the way some people see police officers.

 In early September, Longo addressed about 15 people attending this fall’s Citizens Police Academy. The annual 10-session class trains neighborhood residents in the basics of police work. In the process, Longo gives the trainees a frank lesson on why “community policing” is one of the toughest jobs in the city.

 Longo said last month that a “slave patrol” is the “oldest model of a police-like force.”

 In a later interview with C-VILLE, Longo said he used the slave patrol example to acknowledge that many people, particularly African-Americans, look at police against a backdrop of deeply ingrained history and culture. The view, he admits, is often negative.

 “In my opinion, the slave patrol met a policing function. That’s what they did,” Longo says. “You just don’t forget that. That doesn’t change overnight.”

 As a strategy, “community policing” has been tossed around the Charlottesville Police Department for a decade. It refers to a style of policing where officers work with neighborhood residents, gathering tips that make crimes easier to solve and, ideally, preventing some crimes altogether. As a practice, community policing began in earnest when the City hired Longo, a Baltimore police veteran, in February 2001.

 In the past several months, two much-publicized incidents—uproar in April over a DNA dragnet of black men, and the shooting of an unarmed 31-year-old black man, Kerry Cook, by a white police officer at Friendship Court in August—brought the issues of race relations and law enforcement again to the foreground in Charlottesville. Opinions varied, with some defending Longo and his department, while others declared race relations were worse than anytime since the 1960s.

 The stakes are high, and the pressure on Longo seems tremendous. After all, the City has pinned its economic future on luring middle-class homebuyers into Charlottesville neighborhoods, including those traditionally home to low-income African-Americans. Longo believes making those neighborhoods safe for current and prospective residents demands a close relationship between police and neighbors.

 “There are going to be entire communities that I’m going to have to win the trust of,” Longo said to the Citizens Police Academy’s attendees. “I’m not sure we’re there yet. I think we’re a whole lot closer than we were.”

 

 

DNA disputes

Last spring, the national news media descended on Charlottesville, and for once it didn’t have anything to do with Sally Hemings, Dave Matthews or a new “No. 1” ranking.

 Chief Longo was in a tight spot. News of a serial rapist, responsible for a series of violent attacks across seven years, had people wondering: “Why can’t the police catch this guy?”

 Each new attack heaped more scrutiny on the department. Police posted composite sketches of the rapist—described as a muscular black man in his late 20s—and pleaded for citizen tips, but to no avail.

 Under pressure to crack the case, Longo ordered a DNA dragnet. By seeking voluntary DNA samples (taken by swabbing the inner cheek) from 195 black men, police kicked open a hornet’s nest.

 The backlash began when police asked Steven Turner, a black graduate student at UVA’s Curry School of Education, for a DNA sample in March. It was the second time police had approached Turner for a sample. He refused both requests—one of only 10 men who rejected the swab—and began loudly blasting the dragnet.

 Turner caught the attention of local and national media, and received backing from local African-American leaders, among them Dr. Rick Turner, no relation, UVA’s outspoken Dean of African-American Affairs, and Pastor Bruce Beard of Transformational Ministries First Baptist Church.

 Critics argued that the voluntary samples amounted to racial profiling, claiming that police were taking samples from men who looked nothing like the composite, or who hadn’t been in the area long enough to have committed the first rape, in 1997. Others said the chief should have at least conferred with black leaders to explain the dragnet and ask for their help before officers started demanding swabs.

 If Longo caught hell for not trying hard enough to catch the rapist, he caught twice as much hell for trying too hard. It wasn’t long before Longo ended up live on CNN, sitting next to Steven Turner to defend the dragnet. During one frenzied week in April, Longo fielded calls from network TV producers, held a feisty town hall meeting and, eventually, suspended the DNA sample collection.

 When Longo revived the dragnet a few days later, he applied much stricter guidelines to when and how to collect a sample. He also reiterated the promise that samples would be destroyed after being checked against the perp’s DNA. The new plan met largely with approval from black leaders. Dean Turner, Beard, the ACLU and others praised Longo’s response to the furor.

 But not everyone was slapping Longo on the back. Some local blacks grumbled that they’d been complaining about the dragnet since it first began, but nobody paid any attention until a UVA student started fussing.

 “Until it made national news, it was fine and dandy,” says Raymond Mason, a fierce critic of the DNA dragnet. He attended Longo’s town hall meeting, and says police shouldn’t be asking people to submit their DNA more or less at random.

 “I know someone who got stopped twice. He didn’t fit the description at all,” says Mason. “They told him, ‘Why don’t you prove yourself innocent?’

 “According to the Constitution, you’re innocent until proven guilty. They flipped the script,” Mason says.

 

 

Escalating force

On August 21, a single gunshot on a summer night sent another shockwave through the city’s African-American neighborhoods.

 That night two officers, while responding to a 911 call from a woman in an apartment in Friendship Court, had a violent confrontation with Kerry Cook, the woman’s ex-boyfriend. Cook, a Fluvanna resident, was wanted on several fairly minor warrants, but had a lengthy rap sheet and violent past. He had also previously been arrested by Officer William Sclafani, one of the two officers who responded to the call at the subsidized housing complex on Garrett Street.

 According to a police statement, after the two officers used “escalating force” while trying to subdue Cook, Sclafani then shot Cook once in the stomach. Witnesses say police repeatedly hit Cook in the head with their batons, adding that the fight lasted for several minutes and that perhaps 100 residents witnessed at least some of the violence.

 Civil rights attorney Deborah Wyatt represented Cook’s family in the shooting’s aftermath, and appeared likely to take some form of legal action on the behalf of Craig Lawson, 36, claiming that he was unfairly swept up and arrested in the chaos of that night at Friendship Court. Lawson was charged with a felony assault of a police officer, disorderly conduct, obstructing justice and crossing a police line. Wyatt is also handling a harassment lawsuit against City police over the DNA dragnet. A man who claims he does not fit the serial rapist’s description and therefore should not have been asked to provide a DNA sample filed the suit.

 Police and the City Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office are still investigating the Cook incident. Cook, who went into a coma after being shot, spent more than three weeks recovering at the UVA Medical Center. He is now being held at the Albemarle/Charlottesville Regional Jail.

 Cook’s mother, Patricia Cook, complains that her son was released to the custody of the jail too quickly, saying he still has a fever and can’t walk or eat.

 “We’re afraid this man is actually going to die in there,” Cook says.

 Taken together, the DNA dragnet and the shooting incident had some local African-Americans fearing a backward slide toward the bad old days, when cops and black people stood on opposite sides of a battle line. When asked about those incidents, nobody was talking much about community policing.

 “A lot of people don’t trust the police,” said Harold Foley, who works for Public Housing Association of Residents, in the days after the shooting. “The trust has broke down.”

 That’s not what Chief Longo wants to hear. The central tenet of Longo’s strategic plan, which he introduced six months after assuming the post in February 2001, is to sink deep roots in historically high-crime neighborhoods, many of which are mostly black.

 

 

“Whachya gonna do when they come for you?”

Before Longo arrived, community policing was more of a catch phrase than a serious strategy.

 The department’s first stab at such a policy was in 1994, when the City hired North Carolina native John Wolford to replace longtime chief John “Deke” Bowen.

 Bowen’s so-called community policing initiative had involved putting officers on horseback. It made for good PR, but many cops didn’t understand how riding high in the saddle would help them to make inroads in high-crime neighborhoods, according to City Police Captain J.E. “Chip“ Harding, who in 2000 wrote a report on community policing.

 Wolford had his own ideas about community policing. When he took over, he created a team of officers to work in troubled neighborhoods for three months at a time. That didn’t solve the problem, says Harding.

 Wolford resigned after less than three years, when one-third of his officers and 90 percent of supervisors signed a letter questioning the chief’s credibility and management style.

 Next came former police lieutenant J.W. “Buddy” Rittenhouse, who took over for Wolford. “He wasn’t very high on the whole concept of community policing,” says Harding.

 The Rittenhouse method for cleaning up crime was a tactic called “saturation deployment.” For about three consecutive days, the department would send in a posse of officers and bust as many bad guys as possible.

 “Like they do on ‘Cops’,” Longo says, before singing “Bad boys, bad boys” in homage to the show’s theme.

 This approach may make for good television, but it doesn’t do much for ridding a city of drug dealing, gunplay, petty theft or even vandalism—a crime community policing believers tag as a the start of the slippery slope that leads to a neighborhood’s worsening decay.

 Longo likens the outcome of saturation deployment to squeezing a balloon—by pushing on one neighborhood, crime shrinks there and swells somewhere else.

 “You’ll never fix the problem that way,” Longo says. “A long-term strategy means a long-term commitment.”

 While speaking at the Citizens Police Academy, Longo described the old-school policing style by leaning back, wrist draped over an imaginary steering wheel, pantomiming an officer who scans the sidewalk for bad guys as he rolls by in his cruiser.

 Under Rittenhouse, the force was a “very military-style, highly structured, traditional form of policing,” says Harding, a 20-year veteran who served under Rittenhouse.

 Near the end of his tenure, City Hall pressured Rittenhouse to try community policing. He created a five-officer squad to roam undercover around neighborhoods with a reputation for high crime, such as 10th and Page, Hardy Drive and Prospect Avenue, similar to the Neighborhood Task Force former chief Wolford had installed. In true Rittenhouse style, he dubbed his community policing squad the “Street Hawks” because, he reportedly said, the Neighborhood Task Force sounded “too Mr. Rogers.”

 The predatory moniker was a curious choice, particularly for a squad that was supposed to reach out to minority groups, and its mention provokes a chuckle from Longo. Like other community policing squads, the Street Hawks came and went mostly because no one in the department had a clear idea of what they were supposed to do. “They were just kind of set off to the side,” says Harding.

 The “here today, gone tomorrow” history of community policing in Charlottesville made Longo’s job even harder, because African-Americans were justifiably suspicious of any grand strategies and big promises from a new chief.

 But as director of the Quality Community Council (QCC), Karen Waters was ready to give Longo’s strategy a chance. The QCC works on community-centered solutions to public safety, housing and other common problems in its target neighborhoods, most of which have large black populations. The group was formed in response to a random shooting on Prospect Avenue in 1999 and is funded by the City and private sources.

 Waters defends Chief Longo, touting his positive influence on the force. Though Waters admits that the two incidents have upset people, she says Longo has worked hard to reach out to black neighborhoods.

 “Are there individual officers that do things that are not just or correct? Yes,” Waters says, but adds, “I don’t recall ever being invited to sit down with Buddy Rittenhouse and being asked about the concerns of the African-American community.”

 

 

New day rising?

Not everyone shares Karen Waters’ view.

 Mary Carey is president of the Friendship Court Neighborhood Association, and has lived in the apartment complex for 22 years. Carey is angry. She can’t talk about the recent police shooting that occurred 75 feet from her apartment without raising her voice.

 “These people will never forget that night,” Carey says of the shooting. “I can see that cop shooting him…I can’t get it out of my mind.”

 Carey’s loud denunciations of the police force were heard all over local media, angering some cops, who thought her superheated charges were not representative of a community they say they’ve worked hard to get to know.

 Carey says the shooting was a turning point for her faith in Longo and police.

 “I used to feel like Longo would make a difference, but now, I don’t know,” she says.

 The day after the shooting, two detectives came looking for Carey at the Food Lion on Fifth Street, where she works. They wanted a statement from her about the shooting, but she wasn’t in that day. Carey says the detectives’ visit was “humiliating” and “almost damaged my credibility with my employer.”

 She left an angry phone message with Longo, accusing him of crossing the line. The next day, a detective came to apologize for the Food Lion visit, she says, but the apology didn’t curb her anger.

 “I grew up with this shit back in the ’60s. I’m not going back,” Carey says.

 Asked about missteps that may have a racial angle, Captain Harding says Longo has vigorously stressed respect among officers in their dealings with citizens, and within the force.

 “Yeah, you’re going to have people messing up occasionally…Anytime you’ve got 120 sworn police officers there’s always going to a knucklehead in the group somewhere doing something sometime,” Harding says. He says the difference is that the 41-year-old Longo—who holds a law degree and sports an impressive career in which he rose from a cadet to a colonel in 18 years with the Baltimore police force—sets the tone for a culture that does not tolerate insensitive behavior. Longo’s example, Harding says, is “permeating the whole environment.”

 Even so, some residents, particularly in black neighborhoods, aren’t buying that it’s a new day over at the police station. The tension between African-Americans and the police reaches deeper than any particular chief, policy, or specific incident, says DNA dragnet critic Raymond Mason.

 “The problem is not just the chief, or the police department. It’s the community itself,” says Mason. “Charlottesville just got named the best place to live, but for black people that’s just not true. It’s the same way in every city.”

 Echoing a fact the chief himself explained to the Citizens Police Academy, Mason says that a suspicion of white society, including police and government, has long been part of African-American culture.

 “It’s not just resentment against the police department,” says Mason. “It’s resentment against white society.”

 That’s not what Charlottesville likes to hear about itself. Whether such resentment is fair, both police and African-American leaders admit Mason’s point of view is not uncommon; indeed, it’s a fact that both blacks and whites must recognize and confront if any progress is to be made in Charlottesville’s race relations.

 Mason is a convicted felon, guilty of cocaine distribution and heroin possession, and he now works for Gaston Wyatt, a woodworking company. He says his first encounter with police was when he was 11 or 12. A white woman accused him—falsely, he says—of stealing her pocketbook. An officer apprehended him, twisted his arm behind his back and hollered to his buddies, “Yep, I caught another one.”

 Mason says he escaped prosecution when the woman couldn’t positively identify him. “She said, ‘You know, judge, they all look alike.’”

 Mason points to little examples—the way a police car cruises by a group of black men standing on the corner, then turns around and cruises by again, slowly. It’s the condescending attitude he says some officers exude towards black people.

 “Cops talk to white people, and they say ‘Sir, is there a problem,’” says Mason. “They talk to black people and say ‘Hey, what’s the problem here?’”

 Mason says he recently gave an officer roadside directions. “He said, ‘You ‘da man!’ I’m not the man. You don’t have to talk black to me. Just be respectful.”

 Another incident—recently two plainclothes police officers were walking along UVA’s Corner district when a young white man drove past in an SUV blaring hip hop. “Hey, you’re white!” one of the officers yelled to the driver, mockingly, unaware that a C-VILLE reporter was walking behind them.

 It’s unclear whether they were City officers. But their badges and guns were clearly on display, and so was the kind of cocky swagger that many people find offensive. It’s what Harding would call “knucklehead” behavior, and it reinforces the deeply ingrained stereotypes that Longo is striving to overcome.

 “There are always going to be people that say, ‘You know what, I’ve been hurt too many times. I’ve seen things too many times. [Police] are not going to change my mind,’” Longo says. “You can’t [further] alienate that person. You just gotta accept that and move on—with or without them.”

 Longo put this belief into action on a recent day, when he returned a call from Mary Carey about setting up a meeting. Still steamed, Carey plays the Longo’s message for a reporter. His voice is business-like, but friendly, as he says he looks forward to meeting with her.

 

 

A matter of perception

Safety—no politician can promise it, no police program can guarantee it. Safety is more than just a function of crime statistics or number of officers on the street. It’s also a subjective feeling that depends on how people perceive their environment.

 To illustrate that point, Longo describes what he says is the No. 1 complaint his department receives. It’s laughable—when people complain to Longo about crime, the place they talk about the most frequently is that bourgeois bastion, the Downtown Mall.

 Longo himself sometimes patrols the Mall on Friday nights, and says the typical troublemaker he runs into is a loud teenager who might be sitting ona planter.

 “I hear all the time that people don’t feel safe on the Downtown Mall,” Longo says. “But the reality of it is that you don’t read about a lot of crimes happening there.”

 Yet some residents say police should be arresting more of those unruly teenagers and other alleged Mall troublemakers—many of whom are black. At a recent meeting of the Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville, several merchants gave City Police Lt. Gary Pleasants an earful about crime on the Mall, claiming that officers are allegedly issuing warnings rather than arresting Mall urchins.

 Sometimes, police can’t catch a break. Last year Charlottesville saw a 10 percent dip in reported, serious crimes, yet critics continue to harp on the department for not being able to catch the serial rapist—the proverbial needle in the haystack. While some business owners and real estate developers push police to “lock ‘em up,” minority neighborhood leaders say aggressive tactics only alienate the people whose help police most need.

 When Longo moved into his office three years, ago, his problems went even deeper than inconsistent notions of community policing. The City’s police department constantly struggles to retain officers tempted by higher-paying jobs, and the chronic officer shortfall (currently, the department is seven officers short) means community policing units are perpetually shorthanded.

 “Rather than just take a bunch of cops and throw them at a neighborhood, we started small,” Longo says. “And we picked 10th and Page first.”

 In addition to the two cops at 10th and Page, who are set up in a substation, City police have two officers at a substation in the Orangedale/Prospect Avenue neighborhood. Longo says the first priority for these four officers is meeting people and building relationships.

 “If it takes you 10 years, then prepare to say here 10 years,” Longo says of the neighborhood cops’ marching orders.

 To help restore faith in local government, police hold regular meetings in target neighborhoods, giving residents a chance to make requests for amenities—repair for a broken sidewalk, a speed bump, a new stop sign. Then police go to City Hall and make it happen.

 The thinking is that if these officers can earn neighbor’s trust, maybe cops will be steered toward big problems, such as when an out-of-town drug dealer moves into the area. Because, as Longo says, people are far more likely to phone in a tip to a cop they know and trust.

 “I wish we could just wave a magic wand and expand [community policing],” says Waters of the Quality Community Council.

 Though Waters admits that this year has posed challenges for police in working with the black community, she says Longo’s plan has definitely improved peoples’ opinions of cops, and City government. Furthermore, Waters actually thinks the DNA flap could help get people engaged with police, claiming that her office gained several volunteers who signed up because of outrage over the incident.

 “Crisis is what forms leadership,” Waters says.

 Cyndi Richardson, a lifelong resident of Sixth Street S.W., is enrolled in this fall’s Citizens Police Academy. She says she’s excited about talking to local drug enforcement, SWAT and internal affairs officers. She’s also looking forward to seeing the firing range, but wouldn’t mind missing the tour of the jail.

 Richardson currently serves as an informal block rep for police, a role she says grew out of her concern over drug dealing on her street in the mid ’90s. The dealers moved to her street when police cracked down on an open-air drug market in 10th and Page.

 “Now, it’s gone,” Richardson says of the imported drug problem.

 Richardson says she praises police to her neighbors, defending their actions with “a clear conscience”—a stance that isn’t always easy.

 “I’ve gotten flack for it,” Richardson says, noting that she supports police because “I’ve worked with the police department.”

 Even as community policing apparently makes slow but steady inroads into the African-American community, the system is still hampered by budget issues. While the federal government feeds departments across the country millions of dollars for guns and gas masks to fight drugs and terrorists, federal and State budget cuts have left localities strapped for cash.

 For example, The Washington Post reported last week that the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services Program (COPS), which helped local departments boost their ranks with 118,000 officers nationwide, would no longer fund new hires. The move comes after years of cuts from the Bush Administration. Since 1995, the COPS program gave the Charlottesville Police Department $662,069, allowing it to bring on 14 new officers.

 Budget woes mean Charlottesville is often short on police officers. The seven-officer shortage in Charlottesville has left four vacancies in the department’s Neighborhood Services Bureau. That means two neighborhoods, including Friendship Court where Kerry Cook was shot, are denied a community policing squad. Furthermore, Harding says, the department is constantly losing officers to higher salaries in other cities or to jobs with the Drug Enforcement Agency, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms bureau, and FBI. And in a new twist, Harding says three experienced officers have been lured away from Charlottesville in the last six months by local sheriffs’ departments that offered the bonus of a take-home police car.

 “We get discouraged,” says Harding.

 Police work, it seems, is often an exercise in dealing with frustration. Money’s tight, demands are high, and sometimes the progress seems to come in drops while setbacks seem to come in torrents.

 “You’ve just got to be patient,” says Longo. “You can’t just throw your hands up and say, ‘There’s nothing we can do.’ You’ve got to stay the course. You’ve got to show people that this is for real.”

Welcome to the neighborhood
COMMUNITY POLICING HITS THE STREETS

Lt. Mike Dean of the Charlottesville Police Department is an ex-Marine who worked for the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement squad for 15 years. During that time, he says, busting dealers was “my singular focus.”

 So it was a major shift for Dean when he was promoted in 2002 to run the CPD’s Neighborhood Services Bureau, which directs the department’s “community policing” efforts from a headquarters in the former Frank Ix building. Since then, Dean has become a true believer in the hands-on approach of working with residents to stop crime.

 “Community policing is about leveraging all our resources, because police can’t do it alone” Dean says. “What we think the problems in the community are, are not always what people in the neighborhood think the biggest problems are,” Dean adds.

 To better learn what’s going on around town, City police hold monthly meetings with a group of 30 informal block reps from primarily low-income neighborhoods, also drawing City officials to the huddles.

 Police also go door-to-door delivering surveys in historically high-crime neighborhoods. Among the questions on the straightforward questionnaire are whether people think police are respectful, whether they feel safe and what they think are the biggest ills in the neighborhood, with choices ranging from gun violence to littering. Dean flips through a big book that contains detailed results from the survey, saying they help City cops know where work needs to be done.

 Many of the tactics used in community policing arose in the early ’90s in New York City, during Rudy Giuliani’s stint as mayor, a time in which the NYPD orchestrated a remarkable decrease in crime. The strategy is about far more than, as Police Captain J.E. “Chip” Harding says, “just birthday cakes and gifts for children.” When it’s working, community policing garners a steady stream of tips about crime and also helps one hand talk to the other, so to speak, on the force.

 One tactic local cops have taken from the NYPD’s community policing playbook is a regular meeting to track crime trends. At the meeting, Chief Longo says shift commanders and sergeants huddle at a round table with detectives, school resources officers and neighborhood cops to look at clusters of “calls for service” on a map up on the wall. Longo says the group can focus on specific streets and ask questions such as, “Why do we have three domestic calls here and what are you doing to stop it? Have you booked them into counseling?”

 Longo says the approach gives cops a fuller picture of likely criminals. It’s part of a far more comprehensive crime fighting plan than what Charlottesville’s finest have used in the past, which Longo describes as, “Go in there guys, be real aggressive policing, lock some people up, kick down some doors, execute some search warrants, get some people off the corner, you know, board up some houses and then once it’s stabilized, O.K. 10th and Page, you’re on your own.

 “This is different,” Longo says. “It could take years.”—P.F.

Back in black
THE CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT STRUGGLES TO RECRUIT AFRICAN-AMERICAN OFFICERS

An obvious way for the Charlottesville Police Department to better relations with black citizens is to have more black cops patrolling the city. But with only 13 black officers on the 112-member police force, the percentage of black cops is about half the percentage of African-American residents in Charlottesville proper, which is 22 percent.

 Chief Timothy Longo says this relatively low number is not for lack of trying, citing “focused minority recruitment” of blacks, Hispanics and women.

 “The problem with recruiting African-Americans, particularly African-American males, is that it’s not a popular profession,” Longo says, with understatement. “There’s a certain stigma.”

 With the force not having much luck recruiting black men, Longo decided to call for backup. About 18 months ago, he sent a letter to 35 local black leaders.

 “Basically what I was asking for is help,” Longo says.

 With only a handful of phone calls and a few meetings resulting, the response to the letter was disappointing.

 Asked what might turn things around, spurring local leaders to help and bringing minority recruits to his door, Longo says, “People are just going to have to see that this is a department in which they feel respected and valued.”—P.F.

Police salaries

Police work is rarely easy, no matter what city you live in. Charlottesville cops endure the same frustrations and dangers as officers elsewhere, but they get far less in return.

 Statistics show that Charlottesville’s men and women in blue earn less than their counterparts in other cities. The chart below compares starting salaries for patrol officers in Charlottesville and other Virginia cities and elsewhere nationwide.

 In the past six months, Charlottesville’s police department has lost three officers to other departments with higher pay, according to City Police Captain J.E. “Chip” Harding. The department is currently short seven officers, with four vacancies in the community-policing bureau. It’s frustrating, Harding says, because it’s usually the most talented officers who leave.

 Last spring, in the thick of budget season and City Council campaigns, there seemed to be no dearth of rhetoric about how raising salaries would help the City retain good officers. What does seem in short supply, however, is money.—J.B.

 

STARTING SALARIES FOR POLICE OFFICERS IN VIRGINIA

Charlottesville $29,250

Albemarle County $28,888

Virginia Beach $36,622

Danville $27,951 (without college degree), $30,746 (without college degree)

Arlington $38,126

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