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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sheriff Morgan: Lies to Black Community on Videotape


Sheriff David Morgan of Escambia County appears to find numerous ways to insult the Black residents of Pensacola and Escambia County.  When he is not outright insulting them about their embrace of a "thug culture;" or all their young men being "Super Predators;" or illegitimacy being the norm for young Black girls; or all Muslims are "Nazis;" or, that he as a white man with a Welsh ethnic background is personally insulted because Black folks refer to themselves as "African-American," he simply lies to them--on videotape.

On April 15, 2015, the Escambia County Sheriff's Office was sent a public records request asking for data to substantiate Sheriff Morgan's claims that he made in a 2013 video--specifically, that his deputies walked the neighborhoods of Pensacola and that he had an open door policy for Black residents of Pensacola.  The answer the CJ's Street Report received is indicative of the disdain this Sheriff has for the public.

The Montclair Park Meeting

In early 2013, he was interviewed by Escambia County Commissioner Lumon May at a park in the Montclair neighborhood.  The commissioner had used the local meeting to bring about a dozen mothers who had lost their sons to gun violence and with the exception of one murder, had been unsolved and to this day almost all remain unsolved.

Sheriff Morgan appeared at the end of the video suggesting that he had come at the end of the event.  The good Sheriff of Escambia did not meet with any of the mothers.  He did not really speak about the situation the mothers' found themselves in.  The Sheriff did not show one iota of empathy.

What he did do is arrive for a photo opportunity to express in his own smarmy, slick way that he cared about the Black community.

On the video clip, Sheriff Morgan stated the following:

"I pledge as Sheriff of Escambia County that we're here for the long pull.  This is not an Operation Brownsville where you're going to see one of these picnics and then for the next three years you won't see us again.  We encourage our deputies to walk neighborhoods and be in contact.  I have an open door policy as you [Commissioner May] do.  Come and talk to us."

The Escambia County Sheriff's Office Response

On April 15, 2015, the Escambia County Sheriff's Office received a certified letter containing three public records requests.  Only two of the requests are covered in this post.

With regard to Sheriff Morgan's assertion that "We encourage our deputies to walk neighborhoods and be in contact," CJ's Street Report requested the following information:

"The purpose of this Florida statute Title X Chapter 119 request is to receive the following information from the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office for the fiscal years (from 01 October to the following 30 September) 2012-2013; 2013-2014; and 2014-2015:

A list with names and badge numbers of officers, dates and times, of Sheriff Deputies who have walked neighborhoods in order to talk to neighbors regarding non-investigative, non-criminal, non-civil legal matters.  Please include the streets these Sheriff Deputies walked and the number of contacts they had with neighbors that were not related to any investigation, or any criminal or civil proceeding or inquiry."

In response, the Sheriff's Public Records office wrote that "there is no such list."

In the 21st century with computers ubiquitous in bureaucracies, the Escambia County Sheriff's Office cannot generate a list of deputies who "walk neighborhoods."  The most logical conclusion to draw is that not a single deputy sheriff has walked a neighborhood to meet folks and have a chat.

The second request the CJ's Street Report sent asked for data to substantiate Sheriff Morgan's claim that "I have an open door policy....Come and talk to us."

The CJ's Street Report request read:

"The purpose of this Florida statute Title X Chapter 119 request is to receive the following information from the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office for the fiscal years (from 01 October to the following 30 September) 2012-2013; 2013-2014; and 2014-2015:

A list of the names, organizational affiliation, and dates you have met in your administrative office or at non-public events with persons affiliated with churches, civil rights or human rights organizations, neighborhood watch groups, social welfare organizations, crime prevention groups, drug abuse education/prevention groups, and safe neighborhood groups."

The Public Records office responded that "there is no such list."

How is it possible with computerized calendars and the knowledge that public officials are under scrutiny for whom they meet with that Sheriff Morgan cannot provide a list of people he has met with "in your administrative office" or have met "at non-public events"?

Sheriff Morgan is known to hum a few tunes in Black churches and sing Negro spirituals in order to impress congregants that he cares about Black folks.  Its reported that he has preached in some Black churches.  And when he is not humming, singing, or preaching, he is recognized by the pastor as "Sheriff's in the house."  And yet, he cannot provide a list of persons and organizations with whom he has met with inside and outside his office.

The logical conclusion is that Sheriff Morgan does not want the voters of Escambia County to know who he meets with in his administrative office.  It is a state secret.  That information is verboten or forbidden, or nitchevo nyet meaning not ever.  Sheriff Morgan does not want the voters of Escambia County to know who meets outside his administrative office.  That, too, is a state secret.  For a Sheriff who thinks other states should adopt Florida's public access law, he has a very strange way of showing that he actually supports the law.

Here is proof that Sheriff Morgan will use any excuse not to meet with civil rights leaders who might have the audacity and the chutzpah to actually ask him pointed questions regarding issues directly affecting the Black community.

In May 2015, Mr. Jerry McIntosh, the second vice president and public relations chairman for Movement For Change, an organization that received $1,000 from the Escambia County Law Enforcement Trust Fund in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, told a town hall meeting that Sheriff Morgan had refused in January 2014 to meet with the Coalition for Justice of Northwest Florida, an informal group of civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, Movement For Change, and the National Movement for Human and Civil Rights, attempting to coordinate their efforts to address violent abuses of local residents by Sheriff deputies.

According to a February 2014 article in the Pensacola News Journal, the Sheriff's Office's General Counsel Gerald Champagne wrote a letter turning down a meeting with the coalition of civil rights organizations and local churches that had been "unveiled to the media in August" that "'the organization is not registered with the Florida Department of State, had no board of directors that he could identify, no founding documents that he could identify and no information on what organizations had agreed to be represented by the coalition.'"  Mr. McIntosh, the coalition's spokesperson, told the newspaper, "'Since when do citizens have to be registered to talk to an elected official?'"

Another prime example of Sheriff Morgan's indifference and disregard for the Black community came on April 25, 2015.  The "Positive Living Event" presented by the New World Believers religious ministry headed by Reverend Rodney Jones, was held at the Western Mark Park across from the Montclair School.  Sheriff Morgan was heard on a local radio station saying that his deputies would be attending the event geared towards children and teenagers.  Not one deputy sheriff showed up at an event that lasted from 1100 to 1600 hours.  Doting mothers who were watching over the hundred or so youth attending were deeply disappointed.  They heard that the deputies had been diverted to another event.  The non-appearance by the deputies is surprising since New World Believers has received funding from Sheriff Morgan's Law Enforcement Trust Fund: $1500 in 2012, $1800 in 2013, and $5000 in 2014.

Concluding Observation

Sheriff Morgan thrives on making assertions about how much he cares and how open he is to meetings with common folks.  He is not.  Sheriff Morgan is all public relations all the time.

He confidently asserts that his deputies walk the neighborhoods of Pensacola to meet-and-greet or grip-and-grin, but he does not mean one word of what he says.  When asked to provide a list of deputies who have walked the neighborhoods, his office responded, "there is no such list."  In other words, he lied.

He confidently asserted that he has an open door policy, but when asked to prove it by providing a list of community leaders he has met with, his office responded that "there is no such list."

There is no such list of who the Sheriff has met with because he does not want the Escambia County public to know who he has met with or not met with.  Surely, only a complete imbecile would believe that the Sheriff cannot generate a computerized list of his meetings with community leaders.

Sheriff Morgan lies openly because that is how he conducts his business.  It is time for the local media and community organizations to begin holding this lying, impression-management-driven Sheriff accountable.

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