Race relations at the forefront in Charlotte County

Reporter: Erika Jackson Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:

The death of George Floyd at the beginning of last week sparked not only protests but put race at the forefront of American’s minds. Charlotte County is no different.

The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office has been holding monthly meetings with the NAACP for the last 6 years but stopped recently due to the coronavirus.

Punta Gorda Police Chief Pam Davis said, “Our partnership with Reverend Anderson and the NAACP has had a very positive impact on the police department’s relationship with our community. It is so important that we continue to keep those lines of communication open with our community leaders during this difficult time.”

The black community said they want to see accountability, and the sheriff’s department responded by saying there can be no accountability without proper reporting.

“We believe there’s been a lot of proactive communication that we’ve had recently, ” said sheriff’s office spokeswoman Claudette Bennett.

Bennett expects it to continue. “We cannot do anything about these complaints if we’re unaware of it.”

Being aware of these grievances helps not only members of the community but the sheriff’s office as well. Bennett said, “Our agency wants to know about these, say, negative counters you have with our deputies so that we can hold them accountable as well.

“If a policy or procedure was not followed to the T, they are reprimanded.”

Again, the biggest goal for people in the community is accountability. “Accountability. We want everybody to be treated the same, ” said Javon Spikes, founder of Unapologetically Black. “If you or I do something wrong, we are going to be punished, and that should go for everybody, no matter what they are wearing.”

The first step toward that goal is actually having these difficult conversations. “When you were having these sorts of conversations, it’s going to be uncomfortable, it’s going to sting. But after the sting, then we can actually move forward and do something positive,” Spikes said.

When members of the community can communicate their frustrations and experiences, Spikes said change can be made. He explained that  “There were people in the crowd who felt like they were being silenced when they would come forward with these allegations. There is a way to make change and effectively change your situation. You just have to do it in the right way.”

That way, according to Spikes, begins with talking, not starting fires. “We don’t want to be like everywhere else. Everywhere else is on fire right now. It’s chaos all around. Before it gets to chaos here, just trying to do a little bit of politicking.”

Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell agreed. “Nobody should be scared of the police. If they are, then we have a serious issue. What I’m hearing is I potentially have some deputies who may not be following our policies and procedures. That’s what I need to know about. What I said earlier is that I can’t fix what I don’t know is broken.”

The NAACP, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, and the Punta Gorda Police Department released a joint statement regarding community relations in Charlotte County that you can read here in its entirety.

The Punta Gorda Police Department said it’s working on finally getting all of the body cameras it ordered over the next few weeks.


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