Travel Guides – The Ugly War Between a White Police Chief and a Black Mayor in the Deep South

Wayman Newton

When Wayman Newton came upon final week about the warrant for his arrest in the city that elected him its first Black mayor, he wasn’t shocked.

Ever since Newton, 40, took workplace after successful his election in Tarrant, Alabama—inhabitants 7,000—by almost 40 proportion factors final 12 months, a small minority of largely white residents and metropolis leaders have had it out for him, he advised The Daily Beast.

They’ve blocked him from making what he and some locals describe as wanted modifications to the police division in a metropolis largely comprised of Black and Latino residents, he stated.

Newton stated the opposition reached its apex final week, when Dennis Reno, the white former chief of police in Tarrant, accused the mayor of assaulting him throughout a dialog in Newton’s workplace a day after his swearing-in again in November.

During the assembly, Newton stated, he confronted Reno—who was nonetheless chief at the time—over what the mayor claimed was a longstanding apply of not hiring Black cops in the metropolis. He stated Reno advised him he hadn’t employed Black officers as a result of they weren’t certified, and couldn’t be trusted to police their very own. The dialog developed into a shouting match, Newton stated.

“At a certain point, I had to remind him that I was the mayor and kicked him out of my office,” he advised The Daily Beast.

Reno didn’t reply to repeated requests for remark for this story. But in accordance with AL.com, he advised police final week that Newton slammed a door on his arm and injured him severely sufficient that he now wants bodily remedy. Newton was arrested on June 16 and charged with third-diploma assault, in accordance with data from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, which declined to elaborate on the expenses previous to publication.

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

For his half, Reno denied any sample of discriminatory hiring. “I only worked for him for two hours. He never gave me a chance,” he advised AL.com of the mayor, including that he had advised Newton, “I don’t hire off race, I hire off qualifications.”

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When he was launched, the younger mayor posted safety-digital camera movies on Facebook that seem to point out Reno leaving the mayor’s workplace and calmly closing the door on his means out. Other movies, apparently from the subsequent day, present him utilizing the left arm he allegedly injured to hold information and climb out of his pickup truck. Newton referred to as the assault cost—in reference to an argument that occurred seven months in the past—a “stunt,” whereas Reno has claimed Newton is simply releasing a part of the footage.

Coming on the heels of a 12 months of racial justice protests, literal dismantling of Confederate monuments, and requires police reform, the weird, small-city, Deep South saga both displays the rise of a ruthless politician one rival likened to Adolf Hitler, or the final gasp of a white energy construction that gained’t let go.

It simply will depend on who you ask.

“My election kind of represented a transition from the old guard to the new,” Newton advised The Daily Beast. “If you actually go and talk to most people that actually live here in the city, they actually like the things that I’m doing.”

Deanna Taylor is a kind of individuals. The white 25-12 months-previous stated she helps Newton as a result of he has made an try to convey wanted youth actions to the metropolis, and has helped the police division make nice strides. Taylor, who doesn’t purchase the assault cost, stated her boyfriend is Black, and that for a lot of in the Black neighborhood, it has been an open secret that the Tarrant Police Department had no Black cops and would typically pull over Black drivers and discover excuses to look their automobiles.

“We would have friends and family that wouldn’t come to Tarrant because they were known for it,” Taylor stated.

Lt. Phillip George of the Tarrant Police Department declined to remark about any alleged coverage of not hiring Black officers, in addition to the alleged focusing on of Black drivers. But he advised The Daily Beast that the police division employs 18 officers. He stated 4 of these officers are Black, and that each one had been employed after Reno resigned from his place as chief of police on Jan. 1.

George additionally shared division information with The Daily Beast that confirmed how, in 2019, Black drivers represented about 58 % of these stopped by police, and about 55 % of stopped drivers in 2020. Those figures are solely barely increased than the 53 % of the inhabitants Black people make up, in accordance with current census data.

Meanwhile, white drivers made up about 30 % of stops in 2019, and 27 % of stops in 2020, numbers which can be a bit decrease than their 34 % share of the inhabitants.

Although the numbers don’t inform a damning story, Newton stated, “Tarrant historically has had a problem.”

“I actually question the legitimacy of those numbers like I question the legitimacy of the hiring practices of the previous police chief,” he added.

Newton stated he helped solidify an inner affairs workplace to maintain monitor of any alleged police misconduct. George confirmed that modifications to the division made it in order that one officer can be in cost of the inner affairs division, quite than a earlier system that may faucet an obtainable detective or lieutenant to deal with complaints.

Tarrant resident Waynette Bonham stated issues appeared to be altering for the higher below Newton. The Black 41-12 months-previous claimed the mayor has additionally made different optimistic modifications in the metropolis, corresponding to beginning a farmer’s market, offering higher entry to the neighborhood heart, and feeding the poorest metropolis residents.

She argued that it was clear from watching “embarrassing” metropolis council conferences each week that he has some enemies. “Mayor Newton is trying hard for the citizens of Tarrant,” she stated. “But it’s the people that hold office in Tarrant that’s keeping him from moving forward.”

She referred to as out the longest-serving councilman, Tommy Bryant, in specific. “It’s like now all he’s doing is trying to oppose anything Mayor Newton is doing. And Mayor Newton is trying to correct the things that had been so bad about the city of Tarrant from the previous administration—like not having Black officers.”

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Bryant pushed again in opposition to any issues with race that the metropolis and police division could have confronted in the previous. Bryant, who’s white, additionally stated his opposition to Newton has nothing to do together with his race however quite stemmed from Newton trampling on the established methods of doing issues and instilling a tradition of worry amongst present and metropolis workers due to his mood.

“He is a dictatorial person,” Bryant, 76, advised The Daily Beast of Newton. “Reminds me of Adolf Hitler.”

Bryant has served as a councilman for 12 years, and stated he’s lived in Tarrant for many of his life. He accused Newton of failing to fill necessary vacant positions in the metropolis, like the metropolis clerk and the chief of police. (Newton stated the cause the metropolis doesn’t have a clerk or police chief is as a result of Bryant and different holdover council members have opposed his selections and as a substitute wish to set up somebody sympathetic to them.)

Bryant additionally blamed the mayor for firing individuals with out the enter of different metropolis officers, corresponding to when he axed Jason Rickels, the former fireplace division chief in Tarrant, after Rickels was arrested in Georgia in March. According to AL.com, Rickels, who’s white, was charged with aggravated assault with a lethal weapon and possession of a gun after he allegedly pulled a gun on a Black realtor and photographer at a residence he owned in Roswell, Georgia.

Brian Steel, Rickels’ legal professional, advised AL.com the expenses had been baseless. Neither Rickels nor Steel responded to a request for remark for this story.

Bryant puzzled why Newton wasn’t placing himself on go away given the incontrovertible fact that he fired Rickels for his cost. “Two different standards for two different people,” he stated.

The councilman went on to say longtime metropolis workers had been in a “hostile situation” below Newton’s management, and accused the mayor of harassing a number of workers, together with himself. He described one assembly a few months again the place he stated Newton tried to instigate a combat with him. He even claimed that he wore a bulletproof vest to council conferences a few occasions as a result of he feared for his security.

Bryant stated he isn’t against modifications in the metropolis, however believes Newton goes about issues in an aggressive means. “I know how things are supposed to be done,” he stated. “I don’t mind changes, if they’re done like they’re supposed to be done. He has no regard for the proper procedures to do anything.”

Laura Horton, 73, who served on the metropolis council for 20 years earlier than shedding her re-election bid in 2020, echoed Bryant’s evaluation of Newton. “It is like he thinks he’s God and he rules this city,” she stated.

Newton denied harassing any metropolis workers. In response to the alleged occasion of misconduct that Bryant described, in which he stated Newton challenged him to a combat, Newton stated, “I’m a 40-year-old Black man with an Ivy League degree and I graduated from a top-10 law school. I’m more than qualified to be the mayor of Tarrant. Do you really think that I would say something like that at a public meeting?”

He stated the accusations about the supposed threats on Bryant’s life weren’t value responding to. Newton solely acknowledged utilizing “foul language” one time in personal with Bryant, after he stated the councilman referred to as him “boy.” “If you know anything about the history of the South and race relations, to have some 75-year-old man calling a 40-year-old Black man a boy is very insulting,” Newton stated.

In response, Bryant claimed that he referred to as Newton “little boy,” and that Newton had been making an attempt to instigate him—and that he meant the remark solely to “turn the tide” on the state of affairs.

“I was trying to piss him off to see if he’d come after me,” Bryant stated.

Freddie Rubio, the metropolis legal professional of Tarrant, declined to touch upon any formal complaints of harassment in opposition to Mayor Newton, and didn’t reply to a subsequent request for remark about whether or not procedures had been adopted in firing workers. “I do not represent the Mayor, Councilor Bryant or any other employee in its individual capacity,” he stated. “I don’t take sides between politicians.”

For his half, Newton stated most of the criticism by Bryant, Horton, and others who’ve opposed him is because of the incontrovertible fact that the metropolis was run in a means that gave them extra choice-making energy than he believes they need to have—and led to a cycle of stagnation. For instance, he stated, the firing of Rickels is one thing that he didn’t want approval for. “I’m in charge of employees,” he advised The Daily Beast.

He referred to as himself the “CEO of the city,” and stated Bryant and others have sadly been delay by the new construction he’s put in. “My thing is, I was elected to run the city. I take that job and responsibility very seriously. And that’s what I’ve been doing,” he stated.

Joel Kimbrough, who’s white, has lived in Tarrant his entire life and owns a printing enterprise there. He helps Newton, doesn’t imagine the assault declare, and stated he believes the actual situation has to do with the altering demographics of the metropolis over the previous 30 years, which is now largely minority however was as soon as predominantly white.

He stated too many longtime residents of the metropolis lengthy for a model again in the ’60s and ’70s, when it was a totally different place. “We have lived in the past,” he stated. “That has done a tremendous amount of damage to the city, because no one has had their eye on the future.”

Kimbrough, 65, stated the metropolis has a lot of potential and a vital finances given its measurement. But he stated it has been tormented by a lack of funding, empty storefronts, and what he calls a lack of foresight.

Newton, he stated, has been a boon to the metropolis as a result of he acknowledges its potential. “He can look and see what it could be without the historical hindsight of what it was,” he stated.

But he stated individuals like Bryant and Reno are, in impact, caught in the previous: “They’re longing for a time that was.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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