Pubdate: Fri, 29 Aug 2003
Source: Plainview Daily Herald (TX)
Copyright: 2003 Plainview Daily Herald
Author: Richard Orr
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)
Bookmark: (Racial Issues)


TULIA - Attempting to recover from an international avalanche of
negative news generated by the 1999 drug sting that saw most of the 46
primarily black suspects pardoned last week, Swisher County has formed
a Civilian Review Board that will address community needs and another
panel that will work to bring much-needed jobs to the area.

Announcement of the formation came during a news conference
Thursday afternoon outside the courthouse where many of the arrestees
were convicted and sentenced to prison on questionable testimony from
former undercover drug agent Tom Coleman, who has since been indicted
for perjury in the case.

Nearly 10 percent of Tulia black population was caught up in an
investigation by Coleman - a reputed racist with a checkered law
enforcement background who claimed he bought powder cocaine from the
suspects over an 18-month period.

There was little or no evidence outside Coleman testimony,
however, and charges against two of the suspects were eventually
dropped after they were able to prove they weren in Tulia at the
time he said they sold him drugs.

CRB member and spokeswoman Angie Trevino said the panel reflects "the
spirit of the community" and that its "mission is to provide an avenue
of communication for our citizens whose needs are not addressed."

In addition to Ms. Trevino, the tri-racial board consists of longtime
residents Cindy Hurt, Mac Stevens, Larry Hawthorne, Barbara Yarbrough
and Rudy Moreno. They're to meet monthly and will look into
complaints and address issues that arise in the community. Although
they'll accept anonymous phone calls, a formal number has not been

"They can call any one of us," said Ms. Trevino, adding that "we want
to look at the future and forget the past."

In an apparent attempt to aid in that transition, the board's
official name avoids any negative connotations: "Tulia - Proving Our
Motto," which is, "The richest land and the finest people."

In addition to the CRB, a separate community action committee is being
formed. It's to consist of 20 to 30 members whose focus will be on
economic development and establishment of a community center.

An earlier resolution by the county prohibits racial

County Judge Harold Keeter told the two dozen or so media
representatives present that while the board can suggest policy
changes and investigate complaints, it has no police powers.

"Its only authority is the good faith of the community," he said.
"It's a communication tool to help make better decisions. I think
we're ready to move on."

However, a federal lawsuit filed last week against Swisher County and
a large number of law enforcement officers and officials - along with
a number of suits expected to be filed in the case - will no doubt
keep the community in a negative spotlight for some time to come.
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