Ugly War between White Police Chief and Black Mayor in Deep South


Wayman Newton

Wayman Newton

He wasn’t surprised when Weiman Newton learned of an arrest warrant in the town that elected him as the first black mayor last week.

Almost white residents and a minority of city leaders have gotten it for him since 40-year-old Newton took office last year (population 7,000) after winning an election in Tarant, Alabama. He told The Daily Beast.

He said they prevented him and some locals from making necessary changes to the police station in the city, which consisted primarily of blacks and Latinos.

Opposition culminated last week when former Talent white police chief Dennis Reno accused him of assaulting the mayor during a conversation at Newton’s office the day after he swore in November. He said he did.

During the meeting, Newton said he had confronted Reno, who was still the chief at the time, for claiming that the mayor had a long-standing practice of not hiring black police officers in the city. He said Reno had told him he hadn’t hired a black police officer because he wasn’t qualified and couldn’t trust his police. According to Newton, the conversation has evolved into a screaming match.

“At some point I had to remind him that I was the mayor and kick him out of my office,” he told The Daily Beast.

Reno did not respond to repeated requests for comments on this story.But according to AL.comHe told police last week that Newton closed the door on his arm and was seriously injured so much that he now needs physiotherapy. Newton was arrested on June 16 and charged with three assaults, according to records from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

In an interview, the mayor denied closing the door on Reno’s arm.

Reno denied the pattern of discriminatory employment. “I only worked for him for two hours. He didn’t give me a chance,” he told Mayor AL.com and told Newton, “I qualify, not hire a race. I will hire you. “

When he was released, the young mayor posted a video of a security camera on Facebook. It seems to indicate that Reno has left the mayor’s office and is quietly closing the door on his way home. Other videos clearly show that from the next day he is using his left arm, which is allegedly injured to carry files and get off the pickup truck. Newton called the alleged assault a “stunt” in connection with a debate that took place seven months ago, but Reno claims that Newton has only released part of the footage.

Following a year-long protest of racial justice, the literal dismantling of the Confederate monument, and a call for police reform, the story of the strange little town of Deep South is the rise of a ruthless politician likened to Adolf Hitler. Reflects. The last gasping of the white power structure that will not let go.

It depends on who you ask.

“My election represents the transition from old guards to new guards,” Newton told The Daily Beast. “When I actually go and talk to most of the people who actually live in this city, they really like what I’m doing.”

Diana Taylor is one of them. A 25-year-old white man, she supported Newton as she tried to bring Newton’s youth activities to the city and said she helped police make great strides. Taylor, who doesn’t buy assault, says her boyfriend is black and for many in the black community, there are no black police officers at the Tarant police station, and it’s open to pull and find black drivers on a daily basis. An excuse to look for their car that said it was a secret.

“Because we are known for talent, we will have friends and family who will not come to talent,” Taylor said.

Lieutenant Philip George of the Talent Police Department refused to comment on the alleged policy of not hiring black police and the targeted allegations of black drivers. But he told The Daily Beast that the police hired 18 police officers. He said four of these police officers were black and all were hired after Reno resigned as police chief on January 1.

George also shared departmental data with The Daily Beast, showing that in 2019, black drivers accounted for about 58% of drivers stopped by police and about 55% of drivers stopped in 2020. These numbers are made up of black populations, according to recent census records.

White drivers, on the other hand, account for about 30% of the 2019 stops and 27% of the 2020 stops, just below 34% of the population.

The numbers aren’t terrible, but Newton said, “Talents have historically had problems.”

“I’m actually questioning the legitimacy of those numbers, just as I question the legitimacy of the former police chief’s employment practices,” he added.

Mr Newton said he helped consolidate the Interior Department to track down allegations of police misconduct. George confirmed that the department change now has one officer in charge of the internal affairs department, rather than the previous system of using the detectives or lieutenants available to handle complaints.

Wellett Bonham, a talent resident, said the situation seems to be getting better under Newton. A 41-year-old black man claimed that the mayor had made other positive changes to the city, including the launch of farmers markets, increased access to community centers, and feeding of the poorest urban dwellers.

She argued that he had an enemy when he saw weekly “embarrassing” city council meetings. “Mayor Newton is working hard for the citizens of Tarant,” she said. “”But it is the people who have offices in the talent that prevent them from moving forward. “

She especially called on the longest-serving councilor, Tommy Bryant. “What he’s doing right now is like trying to oppose what Mayor Newton is doing, and he’s been very bad about the city of Tarant from the previous administration, for example a black policeman. I’m trying to fix that. “

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Bryant opposed racial issues that the city and police might have faced in the past. White Bryant also had his opposition to Newton unrelated to his race, trampling on Newton’s established practices and instilling a culture of horror in current and city employees because of his temperament. He said it was due to that.

“He’s a dictator,” 76-year-old Bryant told The Daily Beast in Newton. “Reminds me of Adolf Hitler.”

Brian has been a councilor for 12 years and said he lives in talent for most of his life. He accused Newton of failing to fill important vacant seats in the city, such as the city’s clerk and police chief. (Newton said the city had no clerk or police chief because Bryant and other members of the Holdover Council opposed his choice and wanted to have someone sympathetic to them instead. .)

Brian also accused the mayor of dismissing people without the opinion of other city officials, including when he dismissed Jason Rickers, a former fire chief of the talent, after Rikels was arrested in Georgia in March. did.by AL.comRickels, a white man, was charged with assault by possessing deadly weapons and guns after pointing his gun at a black real estate agent and photographer at his home in Roswell, Georgia.

Rickels lawyer Brian Steele AL.com The accusation was groundless. Neither Rickels nor Steel responded to requests for comment on this story.

Brian wondered why Newton didn’t take a vacation given the fact that Newton fired Rickers on his charge. “Two different criteria for two different people,” he said.

City council members further said that long-time employees of the city were in a “hostile situation” under Newton’s leadership, accusing the mayor of harassing several employees, including himself. He described a meeting a few months ago when he said Newton tried to instigate a fight with him. He even claimed to have worn bulletproof vests several times at parliamentary meetings because he was afraid of his safety.

Brian said he wasn’t opposed to changes in the city, but believes Newton is doing things in a positive way. “I know how things should be done,” he said. “If the changes are on schedule, you can change them. He doesn’t consider the proper steps to do something.”

Laura Houghton, 73 years old. After working for the city council for 20 years, she loses her reunion.The 2020 election bid reflected Bryant’s assessment of Newton. “It’s like he thinks he’s a god and controls the city,” she said.

Newton denied harassment of city officials. In response to alleged misconduct that Bryant stated that Newton had challenged him, Newton said: “I’m a 40-year-old black man with an Ivy League degree and graduated from the top. 10 Law School. I’m eligible to be the mayor of a talent. Do you really think that’s what you say at a public conference? ? “

He said the accusations of possible threats to Bryant’s life were not worth responding to. Newton admitted only once that the city council used “dirty words” in private with Bryant after calling him a “boy.” “If you know anything about Southern history and racial relations, it’s very insulting for a 75-year-old man to call a 40-year-old black man a boy,” Newton said.

In response, Bryant called Newton a “little boy,” claiming that Newton was trying to incite him. He claimed that he meant a comment just to “turn the tide” of the situation.

“I was trying to offend him to see if he would come after me,” Bryant said.

Freddie Rubio, a lawyer in the city of Tarant, refused to comment on formal complaints of harassment against Mayor Newton and did not respond to subsequent requests for comment on whether the procedures for dismissing employees were followed. .. “I do not represent the mayor, councilor Bryant, or other employees on an individual basis,” he said. “I’m not on my side among politicians.”

Newton says that most of the criticisms by Brian, Houghton, and others who opposed him were run in a way that gave the city more decision-making power than they believed they should have. He said it was due to the facts — and led to a cycle of stagnation. For example, he said the Rikels shot was something he didn’t need approval for. “I’m an employee,” he told The Daily Beast.

He called himself the “Chief Executive Officer of the city” and said that Bryant and others were unfortunately postponed by the new structure he installed. “My thing is that I was chosen to run the city. I take that job and responsibility very seriously, and that’s what I’ve done,” he says. I did.

White Joel Kimbro has lived in Tarant for the rest of his life, where he runs a printing business. He supported Newton and said he did not believe in the assault allegations, and he believed that the real problem was related to the demographic changes in the city over the last three decades.

He said the city had too many long-term residents and was waiting for versions in different parts of the 1960s and 70s. “We lived in the past,” he said. “It caused enormous damage to the city because no one was looking to the future.”

Kimbro, 65, said the city has a lot of potential and a considerable budget given its size. But he said it suffered from a lack of investment, an empty storefront, and what he calls a lack of foresight.

He said Newton has benefited the city because it recognizes its potential. “He can see and see what it is without historical hindsight about what it was,” he said.

But he said people like Brian and Reno were virtually stuck in the past.

For more information, see The Daily Beast.

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