Tren­ton NAACP cites di­rec­tor’s ‘one-way re­la­tion­ship’

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - FRONT PAGE - By Isaac Avilucea iav­ilucea@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @IsaacAvilucea on Twit­ter

TREN­TON » City po­lice di­rec­tor Ernest Par­rey Jr., feel­ing the heat af­ter a civil rights group called on him to re­sign, strolled out­side of depart­ment head­quar­ters Thurs­day af­ter­noon, prior to the start of a news con­fer­ence, and re­quested a closed-door meet­ing with the pres­i­dent of the Tren­ton NAACP.

Par­rey, a mem­ber of Mayor Eric Jack­son’s cab­i­net, walked back into his of­fice af­ter ask­ing Tren­ton NAACP pres­i­dent Jonette Smart to meet with him pri­vately to dis­cuss her group’s ef­forts to have him sup­planted as head of the depart­ment.

The over­ture was ul­ti­mately re­buffed af­ter Par­rey didn’t at­tend the news con­fer­ence, where Smart asked for his res­ig­na­tion fol­low­ing sev­eral high-pro­file blun­ders and called on city lead­ers to be held re­spon­si­ble.

“When there’s some­thing that’s a neg­a­tive, they al­ways want to have it be­hind closed doors,” Smart said in an in­ter­view hours af­ter the news con­fer­ence, ex­plain­ing why she de­clined the meet­ing.

Af­ter send­ing a let­ter to Mayor Jack­son ear­lier this week, ask­ing him to get rid of the po­lice di­rec­tor, Smart re­newed calls for Par­rey’s fir­ing and called on res­i­dents and lead­ers to work to­gether to rec­on­cile wounds she said were re­opened when Par­rey was caught on body cam­era in July us­ing a racist slur to re­fer to city res­i­dents, and when of­fi­cers were caught on tape talk­ing about beat­ing sus­pects with flash­lights.

Mayor Eric Jack­son called the cops’ com­ments “re­pug­nant.” Ex­perts said, in par­tic­u­lar, the di­rec­tor’s barb could lead to a break­down in city re­la­tions that the po­lice depart­ment has tried to so­lid­ify with com­mu­nity polic­ing ef­forts.

“If this ad­min­is­tra­tion thinks it’s good,” Smart said, “it needs to wake up.”

Af­ter the news con­fer­ence, Smart said she was un­de­cided whether she would meet sep­a­rately with the po­lice di­rec­tor.

Call­ing out city of­fi­cials for a lack of trans­parency and an un­will­ing­ness to en­gage res­i­dents, she said she felt Par­rey’s ab­sence from the news con­fer­ence sent a bad mes­sage to Tren­ton res­i­dents and re­flected a “one-way re­la­tion­ship” he’s had with the com­mu­nity.

Smart added the po­lice di­rec­tor hadn’t con­tacted her or of­fered to meet with her be­fore Thurs­day.

When asked if she would dis­close later in the day whether she met with the di­rec­tor, Smart said, “I’m trans­par­ent.”

Fol­low­ing through on her word, Smart said it would have sent a mixed mes­sage to the com­mu­nity to meet with the po­lice di­rec­tor at this junc­ture. She may con­sider meet­ing with him in the fu­ture.

Cit­ing a re­cent news­pa­per col­umn Par­rey penned in which he ap­peared to pat him­self on the back for im­ple­ment­ing ini­tia­tives aimed at crack­ing down on crime, Smart said she viewed sus­pi­ciously the di­rec­tor’s at­tempt to “put her on the spot” in ask­ing for the meet­ing. She be­lieved it was an­other way for Par­rey to mold his mes­sage, and ul­ti­mately, try to save his skin.

“To flaunt the quote-unquote pos­i­tives doesn’t re­solve that there’s [bad] be­hav­ior in the depart­ment,” she said. “The depart­ment is not per­fect, and for peo­ple to say it is, is liv­ing blindly. We have to stop say­ing, ‘Par­rey’s a good guy’ and over­look­ing some of the is­sues in our com­mu­nity. If Gov. [Chris] Christie wasn’t a bully would they still put aside what has hap­pened to the state? I don’t think so.”

The or­ga­ni­za­tion tried to flex its so­ci­etal-changing mus­cles at the news con­fer­ence.

A mem­ber of the civil rights group held up a sign, scrawled in ball­point pen ink, that said, “We are not hood rats,” in re­sponse to Par­rey’s use of the deroga­tory term which many felt was racist. An­other wore a blue shirt that said, “NAACP strong.”

The show­ing was hardly strong, though.

Only a hand­ful of peo­ple at­tended the noon news con­fer­ence, an ap­a­thetic turnout Smart felt wasn’t in­dica­tive of city res­i­dents’ lack of in­ter­est in is­sues im­pact­ing the city.

“If this were Prince­ton …” one city res­i­dent said, not­ing the pal­try turnout.

Smart faulted lead­ers and res­i­dents for not be­ing en­gaged but blamed it more on of­fi­cials’ un­will­ing­ness to share in­for­ma­tion about po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions and other is­sues which has re­sulted in spar­ing com­mit­ment to­ward re­form.

“It’s a com­bi­na­tion of both,” she said.

Po­lice sources who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they fear re­tal­i­a­tion said the neg­a­tive me­dia at­ten­tion Par­rey has re­ceived lately is a “stain on the po­lice depart­ment,” and that he “does not rep­re­sent us.”

Smart dis­closed at the news con­fer­ence she will ask city of­fi­cials to com­mit to estab­lish­ing a po­lice over­sight com­mit­tee which would have a 25-year mem­ber of the po­lice force sit­ting on it.

She wouldn’t pro­vide that per­son’s name be­cause noth­ing is of­fi­cial yet.

Par­rey has had a num­ber of em­bar­rass­ing gaffes that prompted the Tren­ton NAACP to get in­volved.

Be­sides the racial slur, he made an il­le­gal stop of a city res­i­dent. He had no au­thor­ity to do so as a civil­ian po­lice di­rec­tor.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion also crit­i­cized Par­rey af­ter The Tren­to­nian pub­lished body cam footage of three city po­lice of­fi­cers mak­ing fun of a gun­shot vic­tim and dis­cussing how to get away with us­ing ex­ces­sive force.

The of­fi­cers, Tim Miller, Glo­ria Gar­cia and Sgt. Charles Lamin, are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by in­ter­nal af­fairs. A po­lice spokesman didn’t re­spond to ques­tions about whether the depart­ment would re­lease the find­ings of that in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

IA in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­sults are con­sid­ered per­son­nel mat­ters and are not usu­ally made pub­lic.

Smart said that needs to change, adding that, if she meets with Par­rey, that would be top on her list of re­quests.

“That’s one of the is­sues,” she said.

On the is­sue of hold­ing city of­fi­cials ac­count­able, Smart re­it­er­ated her or­ga­ni­za­tion is “non-par­ti­san” and there­fore wouldn’t use pol­i­tics to get their mes­sage through to the mayor.

The mayor’s spokesman, Michael Walker, at­tended the news con­fer­ence only to lis­ten to the group’s mes­sage.

He said the mayor, af­ter meet­ing with the NAACP and writ­ing a let­ter to Smart ear­lier this week, hadn’t taken a po­si­tion on whether he would ask Par­rey to make pub­lic the in­ves­tiga­tive find­ings against the three of­fi­cers.

PENNY RAY - TREN­TO­NIAN

Jonette C. Smart, Pres­i­dent of the Tren­ton chap­ter of the NAACP, calls for the res­ig­na­tion of Po­lice Di­rec­tor Ernest Par­rey Jr. in front of TPD head­quar­ters Thurs­day.

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