Black men’s group making demands of Rock Hill police plans forum, march

In this July 2016 file photo, the group Concerned Black Men of the city of Rock Hill march to the Rock Hill Law Center to deliver a letter of grievances to the Rock Hill Police Department.
In this July 2016 file photo, the group Concerned Black Men of the city of Rock Hill march to the Rock Hill Law Center to deliver a letter of grievances to the Rock Hill Police Department. Special to The Herald

A forum is set for Tuesday night for the public to hear from a group of black men who marched on the Rock Hill Police Department and have made demands of the department about accountability and the way black residents are treated.

And unless something changes in the next day, a second march and demonstration looms in days.

The group, called Concerned Black Men of the city of Rock Hill, marched to the police department July 16 and submitted a list of demands. The letter contained 10 demands the group says the department needs to respond to within 30 days. The 30 days is up Wednesday.

The group’s leaders since have met with Mayor Doug Echols, and met Monday afternoon with Chris Watts, the police chief.

Watts and Executive Officer Mark Bollinger met with two of the leaders of the concerned black men's group late Monday afternoon. Both sides called the meeting productive and filled with good ideas - however some sticking points remain.

And that means, barring any changes this week, that the group will send more demands, and have a second March and demonstration, in coming days. The 30-day deadline for answers to the original 10 demands is Wednesday. If the department does not comply, “there will be a follow up letter and demonstration,” group leader Brad Rawlinson said late Monday.

It also remains unclear if the department will send the chief or any officer to Tuesday’s public forum organized by the group.

The department has posted some of the information about policing since the demands were made, prompting Rawlinson to say that he applauds the department for that.

However, the department did not concede to all cars having dash cameras and all officers wearing body cameras, and also would not commit to a once a month public forum with residents. The department does not have the money to equip all cars and all officers with the equipment, Rawlinson said that Watts told him.

Yet Rawlinson said that cameras help officer safety and should be required, no matter the cost. The city not having money for cameras to best serve the officers and the public is not a legitimate answer to legitimate concerns by people of any color for police transparency, Rawlinson said. Police agencies throughout the nation have shown that more cameras make officers safer and make interaction more transparent - a win for all sides, Ralwinson said.

More, the public wants interaction with its police and political leaders and once a month is not asking too much, Rawlinson said.

“As for those issues, what we received was a bunch of non-answers,” said Rawlinson, a Rock Hill lawyer who is heading up the group with Army veteran and war hero Cedric Caldwell and others.

Caldwell said the meeting was productive, and reiterated that the goal of the group is to help the police best serve the public and avoid problems plaguing other cities. Police had good ideas to try and reach teens, Caldwell said, and the group hopes to work with police to reach young people.

Bollinger, who serves as spokesman for the department, also called the meeting productive and that the department looks forward to “meeting together” with the group and its leaders again.

The forum, free and open to the public, is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at 147 Oakland Ave. The building at the corner of Oakland Avenue and Wilson Street is the former Pix Theater that is now used by a church.

Leaders from the group will discuss what they are doing and why, said group organizer Cedric Caldwell. Police representatives have been invited to attend and speak.

In this file video from July 16, 2016, the activist group Concerned Black Men of the City of Rock Hill delivered a letter with a list of demands to the Rock Hill police department. Organizers are hoping they can increase communication and understa

The group, which invites people of all races, has become active in voicing concerns over the treatment of blacks by police, while trying to avoid conflicts in Rock Hill that have happened in other cities across America. The group invites both supporters and critics to have an open discussion that leads to a better community, leaders wrote in a Facebook post.

Among the demands, the group wants all city and department data concerning use of force by the police department for the past five years and a monthly public forum with police. The group also wants law enforcement to cease all patrols using vehicles without visible police markings, radar equipment and/or video equipment, saying that such undercover operations have unfairly targeted black people in neighborhoods that are mostly black.