Community Race Relations Coalition

WACO, TX – May 2, 2017

The following email was sent to Charlie Haldeman, head of the news department at KXXV News Channel 25, regarding its coverage of the same panel discussion –to which the Waco Police Department took issue:

———-

Dear Mr. Haldeman:

The Board of the Community Race Relations Coalition of Waco thank KXXV for covering our quarterly meeting at St. Albans Episcopal Church on April 28. We appreciate media coverage of our events, but would like to point out a few inaccuracies in the story that aired on the evening news that night, since there has been some unfortunate controversy in that regard. Those inaccuracies are as follows:

1. Eric Furlow, the subject of the meeting and the KXXV story never claimed that the police officer involved in the traffic stop one year ago was fired as a result of that incident. It is our understanding that the officer was let go by the department due to incidents prior to and having nothing to do with the traffic stop.

2. It is unfortunate that there may have been confusion on the part of the KXXV reporter covering the event that the panelists are currently officially connected to the City of Waco. Toni Herbert is a former City Councilwoman who left office around two years ago, and Alberto Melis retired from his position with the City in 2007. They were in no way speaking for the city or for the Community Race Relations Coalition.

Mr. Furlow and Ms. Herbert were invited to discuss the fact that black and Hispanic residents are regularly targeted by police officers– based on interactions small and more serious, leading to convictions or charges dropped– that these citizens can never be rid of, and which cumulatively cost thousands in increasing fines, fees, and legal costs, and negatively impact job and credit applications, eligibility for government benefits, voting, etc. for the rest of their lives. Mr. Melis was invited as a person uniquely qualified to provide those attending the meeting with a broad view of local law enforcement procedures in general, the department’s relationship to other city departments, and steps citizens might take to positively resolve their issues with the WPD.

3. The event was also NOT intended in any way as a “bashing” of the Waco Police Department. The CRRC supports the WPD’s efforts to keep our city safe and orderly. We are, however, aware that many of our citizens who may have an arrest record can feel helpless and wary about bringing their concerns to the attention of the Department. It is a fact that, even when such arrests are proven to be erroneous and charges are dropped, those incidents remain on their records unless they can afford an attorney to pursue a formal expunction of the arrest.

Again, we are so pleased that KXXV is interested in covering race relations in Waco, and the CRRC looks forward to a continuing relationship as Waco’s diverse population grows. You are cordially encouraged to join us for any and all CRRC events throughout the year.

Sincerely,

Michael Jones, for the
CRRC Board

WACO, TX – May 2, 2017

The following “comment” was added to the Waco Police Department’s Facebook page on Tuesday, May 2.  It appears underneath Officer Swanton’s long “UPDATE” comment about the KXXV story that appeared the night of the April 28th quarterly meeting and panel discussion.  Jo Welter, José Villanueva and Michael Jones put the comment together.
———-

The Board of the Community Race Relations Coalition of Waco appreciates and shares your concerns about KXXV’s coverage of the CRRC’s quarterly meeting on April 28, and we have also expressed our concerns about the story to KXXV.  We regret that the circumstances of the story resulted in a controversy over some inaccuracies and mistaken impressions created in the community.

The purpose of the panel discussion featured that evening was to discuss the fact that minority citizens, especially, in the Waco area feel unfairly targeted by law enforcement officers merely because they may have arrest records, even if the charges were dropped or the infractions occurred in the distant past.  It is a fact that the panel discussion included a brief description of Eric Furlow’s particular circumstances, and that was the “angle” the KXXV reporter chose to highlight when the story aired on the news later that evening.

Mr. Furlow and Ms. Toni Herbert were invited to to our meeting to discuss the fact that black and Hispanic residents are regularly targeted by police officers– based on previoius interactions minor and more serious, leading to convictions or charges dropped– and that these citizens are understandably frustrated that each new traffic stop or arrest or booking ultimately can cost thousands in accumulating fines, fees, and legal costs, as well negatively impact job and credit applications, eligibility for government benefits, voting, etc. –no matter how hard they work to walk the straight and narrow.  Mr. Melis was invited as a person uniquely qualified to provide those attending the meeting with a broad view of local law enforcement procedures in general, the department’s relationship to other city departments, and steps citizens might take to positively resolve their issues with the WPD.

The April 28th event, indeed, none of the CRRC’s activities are intended in any way as a “bashing” of the Waco Police Department.  The CRRC supports the WPD’s efforts to keep our city safe and orderly.  We think the WPD would agree, however, that many of our citizens who may have an arrest record can feel helpless and wary about bringing their concerns to the attention of the Department. If they feel targeted and victimized, it is only to be expected that they would be fearful of standing up for their Constitutional rights, or trusting the Department to work with them to resolve their issues.

Finally, we are concerned that WPD’s representatives who claim in area social media that the entire city is 100 percent behind the WPD and enjoys a splendid reputation with the citizens of Waco are implying that the Department believes that no improvement in relations with minority citizens is necessary or even to be considered. If that were the case, members of the Community Race Relations Coalition of Waco would have a lot less work to do.

                                                                                   #####

Welcome!

Please browse the site and attend one of our events! We would love to get to know you.

Announcing the Quarterly Meeting of the Community Race Relations Coalition at 5:30 pm on April 27, 2017. Location is at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church parish hall, 305 N. 30th Street in Waco. Call 717-7903 or email Jo@welterfamily.org to reserve a space or to ask questions. Dinner is provided by the CRRC board, with donations accepted.