Community organizers will hold a town-hall meeting Monday to inform the public about their idea to establish an “office of community safety” that they say would help hold the Fayetteville Police Department accountable for maintaining public safety.
The town hall will be at 6 p.m. Monday at Smith Recreation Center, 1520 Slater Ave. People and organizations from outside the city government are hosting the town hall, which is not affiliated with the city government.
Fayetteville Freedom for All is one of the host organizations. Lisette Rodriguez, the group’s founder, said some of the goals of a community safety office would be to create a mental health response team and an advisory commission that would monitor police policies and study crime data and trends.
The goal of a mental health response team would be to have trained clinicians and social workers respond to emergency calls related to nonviolent mental health incidents instead of the police.
“What this OCS would do is take burdens off of (police officers) that don’t need to be on them. They are not mental health clinicians, so they shouldn’t have to respond to mental health crises. They are not social workers, so they shouldn’t have to deal with our homeless population,” Rodriguez said.
Latisha McNeil, who will speak at Monday’s town hall, is manager of Greensboro’s OCS, one of two such entities in North Carolina that organizers want Fayetteville’s OCS to be modeled after. The other is Durham’s Community Safety Department.
Police Chief Kemberle Braden will not attend Monday’s town hall because of prior commitments, according to the Police Department. But Braden did issue an emailed statement on the idea of a safety office.
“I am an advocate for city residents to discuss programs that they believe will help the city of Fayetteville, and we appreciate the discussion into enhancing police response,” Braden said.
Fayetteville City Council member Mario Benavente, who has called for the formation of a community safety office in the past, said he would want the office to be an additional department funded by the city. From his view, the issue of public safety needs to be addressed by more than just the Police Department.
“The city is ineffective right now in the way that we manage public safety in the city because we're relying on one department,” Benavente said.
City officials declined to comment on Monday’s town hall as well as the idea of a safety office more generally.
Mayor Mitch Colvin could not be reached for comment before CityView’s deadline.
Benavente said he wants the issue to be top of mind going forward.
“We’re going to make it an issue on the ballot because we’re going to make sure that everyone in the city is aware of the benefits, aware of the successes it’s had all across the state,” Benavente said.
Ben Sessoms covers Fayetteville and education for CityView. He can be reached at email@example.com.