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Forsyth County approves law enforcement spending despite objections from activists

Forsyth County approves law enforcement spending despite objections from activists

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The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution against gun violence on Thursday along with various crime-control measures, although activists protesting law enforcement appealed for the county not to spend money on some of the programs.

Support was unanimous on the county board for a resolution brought forward by Commissioner Fleming El-Amin that calls on all parts of society to "work together to find long-term solutions that will result in an end to violence crime and shootings in Forsyth County."

The crime-control measures passed by the commissioners unanimously included:

  • A revised agreement between the county and the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools that sets the 2020-21 cost of providing school resource officers at almost $1.9 million. The school system will pay the money to the county to provide 20 sheriff's deputies serving as school resource officers.
  • An 11th year of funding for a joint driving-while-impaired task force involving officers from the Winston-Salem and Kernersville police departments and the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office, with the county's share set at $58,500 toward obtaining a state traffic safety grant.
  • An interlocal agreement between Forsyth County, Winston-Salem and Kernersville for the formation of a joint drug task force, with the county's share of the cost at almost $560,000 for the first five years. The sheriff's office is proposing to use federal forfeiture funds to pay the cost initially, with future forfeitures generated by the task force expected to pay the cost over the subsequent five-year period.
  • A juvenile delinquency, substance abuse and gang prevention plan for 2020-21 at a total cost of $1.2 million. Most of the money comes from state grants, but the county pays about $316,000 in a mix of cash and in-kind contributions.

But people speaking during the public comment period called on the county to not spend money on some of the items. Some of the speakers have been active in the Triad Abolition Project that has been protesting police actions in marches and events at an "Occupy" site at Bailey Park.

Ashley Johnson, speaking against the DWI program, said that it had been responsible for nearly 13,000 criminal charges between 2010 and 2018, and asked how many people arrested in the program had suffered bodily harm or were victims of racial profiling.

Johnson said the members of the task force were white men, and that this made the program suspicious, and said it would be "white supremacy in action" to support the program.

During the board discussion, El-Amin asked County Manager Dudley Watts if it were true that the task force members were all white, but Watts said the county only has one position on the panel at any rate. El-Amin joined the other commissioners in approving the measure.

Nia Sadler told the county board during public comments that the drug task force should be voted down because it envisions spending the next 10 years on the job. 

"If the goal is to reduce crime, how can you sign a 10-year agreement for the task force?" she asked. "How can you ratify a task force during a period of police brutality?"

Several speakers criticized the county for renewing the county's contract this past spring with Wellpath, the jail health provider, at a time when the death of John Neville had not been made public.

336-727-7369 

@wyoungWSJ

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