Civil rights leaders say problem with Columbus police is transparency, not race

Civil rights leaders say problem with Columbus police is transparency, not race

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Protests and petitions - peaceful and violent - pour across the country sparking outrage about the slaying of a Missouri teen and the response from the Ferguson Police Department.

"The shot was the spark, but the fuel is the abounding poverty and alienation," Civil Rights leader, Rev. Jesse Jackson explains.

Footage of an officer calling protestors animals has added more fuel to the fire, causing a breach in the relationship of those who protect and serve and the ones they serve. It's even made it's way to Columbus.

"We are not like Ferguson, Missouri," said Nate Sanderson, President of the Columbus branch of the NAACP. "We are unique and I do not believe that there's that level of distrust in our community. What I think we're concerned more with is transparency."

Sanderson says several officer involved cases have gone been on the group's radar.

Sanderson adds "like the Tony Carr shooting or when we have issues like the officer that ran over Jacquess Harris and many other issues that plague our community right now."

Drawing questions about how or if the make up of the police department represents the city accurately. Of Columbus's more than 200,000 people, blacks and whites are virtually tied at 45 and 46 percent with roughly 11 percent of other minority races making up Muscogee County.

Conversely, the Columbus Police Department is made up of 71 percent White, 25 percent Black, 3 percent Hispanic and 1 percent of Other officers. All are numbers Sanderson says could work in everyone's favor if the police and the community joined forces.

"I know that there's a strong effort to recruit minorities on our police department. So, I wouldn't say the numbers are the problem. I would say that the transparency is the problem," Sanderson explains.

Sanderson says he hopes city leaders will allow police and communities in Columbus to work together and combat crime in hopes of preventing riots like those in Ferguson, Missouri.

He adds that the Columbus NAACP will not take part in this year's National Moment of Silence, set for August 14 at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

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