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Only 2 speakers turn out for hearing on Fayetteville police oversight, public safety

Council candidate calls for more scrutiny to monitor police actions


A candidate for Fayetteville City Council appealed for more oversight of the Police Department during a public hearing Wednesday night.

Mario Benavente, who is running for the District 3 seat, told members of the Community Police Advisory Board that a civilian review board is needed for police oversight.

Benavente, a frequent speaker during City Council meetings, said public safety is a big issue for him and that he wants to make sure that the Police Department and city officials are working to improve in that area.

Benavente, 32, was one of two speakers at the advisory board’s first hearing on public safety.

The board meets at 6 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at the FAST Transit Center on Franklin Street.

“The solution that I’m hoping this board comes to recognize is … that we need a civilian review board so that we can have independent oversight of police specifically engaged in this conduct,” Benavente said.

Since the shooting death of Jason Walker on Jan. 8 during a confrontation with an off-duty Cumberland County sheriff's deputy, Benavente has been critical of the Fayetteville Police Department and Chief Gina Hawkins.

The investigation of that shooting was led by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation. Special prosecutor Kimberly Spahos decided that no charges would be filed against sheriff’s Lt. Jeffrey Hash in that case.

On Wednesday evening, Benavente reminded the Police Advisory Board that in 2012, then-Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate his department because statistics showed that police officers had been stopping Black drivers at twice the rate of white drivers.

Black drivers were being stopped 58% of the time, he said, while white drivers were being stopped 30% of the time in 2012.

He said that in 2022, the disparity is even worse because white drivers are being stopped at an even lower frequency than a decade ago. He said that police officials contend that African Americans are responsible for more crime than whites.

“They would have you believe something so egregious, so ignorant,” he said.

The other speaker during the public hearing was 71-year-old John Czajkowski, who said public safety should be the No. 1 priority of the City Council. He said if the Police Department or Fire Department need more money to get things done, “give it to them.”

Czajkowski previously was a candidate for City Council, but he lost in the primary election. He also was a Republican candidate for the District 44 seat in the N.C. House of Representatives in 2012.

“Someone should not have to live in fear at this point in life,” he told the board.

Czajkowski placed much of the blame on the media: “Media has caused division in the city,” he said.

In other business, the Community Police Advisory Board heard a presentation on the Fayetteville Police Foundation; a report on the city’s 2022-23 budget that was approved on Monday night; and an overview of the Police Department’s crime information center that Chief Hawkins has called “a nexus hub for the Police Department.”

Through its mapping, the center can plot where crime is most prevalent.

The advisory board is scheduled to meet again in July, when members will discuss what the speakers at the public hearing had to say Wednesday night.

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.


Fayetteville, police, public safety, City Council