‘This is a nightmare’: Black residents fume as Alabama city backs ‘Confederate commander’ police chief
Residents of an Alabama city are up in arms because their city leaders openly support the police chief, who has admitted to being a member of a neo-Confederate group, WTVM reports.
Dothan police Chief Steven Parrish is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and residents voiced outrage that he continues in his capacity at a Tuesday city government meeting. Some on Tuesday complained they were not allowed to speak when Mayor Mike Schmitz cut short public comment, allowing one representative for and against the chief to speak.
“This would never happen to the Jewish community,” resident Paul Carroll told the City Commission. “You would never see someone who’s a neo-Nazi being made chief of police, but somehow we as the black community are supposed to accept that we have a neo-Confederate?”
According to WTVY, protesters have been calling for Parrish to resign or for him to be fired, with some saying they do not feel safe in the city as long as he is police chief.
“We are supposed to accept that we are supposed to put our trust and our faith in someone who has those connections?” resident Paul Carroll said, according to the Dothan Eagle.. “I don’t (feel safe). Sometimes when you have had a life of white privilege it is very difficult for you to understand what it is like to be a minority.”
In a blog post written by Parrish, he identifies himself as a commander of the Henry County chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. In the post, he talks about efforts to preserve the grave of a Confederate captain who died fighting for the South from a logging company.
Blogger Jon Carroll accused the chief of being part of a ring of narcotics detectives that planted drugs and weapons on African-American men for years before becoming chief. Carroll sites the Alabama Justice Project and says the documents were leaked by anonymous Dothan police officers from the Internal Affairs division, and that many of the men prosecuted by the complicit district attorney are still behind bars.
However Radley Balko wrote in the Washington Post in December that doubts have been raised about the sourcing and credibility of Carroll’s allegations.
Parrish was selected by the City Commission in April to serve as police chief. He has worked for the department since 1984.
Residents have made complaints to the FBI and Department of Justice, according to the Eagle.
“This is a nightmare,” resident Ruth Nelson told WTVY. “And when we look at the real underlying problems that are causing this..they need to be addressed and they need to be addressed with equality and with truth.”
In December, African-American resident Kevin Saffold warned in that if city leaders wouldn’t address the matter, they run the risk of civil unrest.
“If you don’t want this to be another Ferguson, if you don’t want civil unrest, if you don’t want people taking matters in their own hands and not being cooperative, then you should do something about that,” Saffold had said, according to the Eagle. “I believe in the court system and I believe in justice … I don’t see no reason why the board should not at least demote him to some other field.”