City Manager Ed Burchins faced a flurry of questions this week about the police department, including queries about minority hiring.
Council members discussed the Laurinburg Police Department during a workshop Wednesday night.
Councilman Curtis Leak, who represents District 1, said he is often asked why there are so few black police officers.
“Blacks and minorities in Laurinburg say our police force needs to be looked at,” Leak said. “We talked about this several years ago. We got 40 some officers, but don’t have but five blacks. Laurinburg is 49 or 50 percent black. Where are the black officers?
Leak, who is black, said if the community had officers of the same race to relate to, the department might solve more crimes.
“Every time there is a shooting or something happens in the black community, you don’t see a blue car,” Leak said. “They don’t look like us.”
Burchins told council that the police department is actively seeking more minority officers. The department currently has three openings.
Burchins said that the city’s police department took part in a seminar on Wednesday to generate interest in law enforcement careers. The Law Enforcement Seminar at Richmond Community College attracted about a dozen participants, he said.
Seminar presenters included Lt. Mark Godwin, Laurinburg Police Department, Chief Deputy Mitch Johnson, Scotland County Sheriff Department, Steve Smith, vice-president for Richmond Community College,and Betty Galloway, manager , Department of Commerce Employment Services Joblink and Arlene Thorne, RES Specialist, Scotland County JobLink Career Center.
Burchins said following the seminar, any qualified participants will get to go through the Basic Law Enforcement Training course at no cost.
“They are helping us locate appropriate candidates,” Burchins said. “We are trying different strategies and different approaches to try to diversify the department.”
Leak then asked Burchins when the last police officer was hired.
“Three weeks ago,” Burchins said.
“What was his agenda … what was his race?” Leak said.
“He was white,” Burchins said.
“You’ve been here three years,” Leak told Burchins. “Have you ever looked the data? Check your data and you will see what I’m saying.”
Councilman Herbert Rainer asked Burchins about the number of unsolved murder in the city. Burchins said that there were about three open cases.
“What about the cases beyond this year?” Rainer said.
“They have all been solved,” Burchins said.
“All the cases?” Rainer said. “What about the girl that was found by the railroad tracks?
Burchins said he was unfamilar with that particular crime, but “would feel better talking about individual cases in a closed session.”
“Sandy (Callahan from WLNC) is saying five, you are saying three and I’m saying eight … you want to bet your job on that? Leak asked Burchins.
Councilman Kenton Spenser said the city needs to find new ways to provide better public safety.
“We need to have points of connection to our police force where we have more eyes out there,” Spenser said. “You can hire more police but again if they are not in the right place at the right time or people are not involved. This should also be about us promoting more citizen interaction. There are other things we can do to create more of a presence besides the obvious.”