Pubdate: Tue, 13 Jul 2004
Source: Courier, The (TX)
Copyright: 2004 The Courier
Author: Erika E. Durham, Courier staff
Bookmark: (Racial Issues)
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


A concern about police conduct and respect for citizens' rights in the
crackdown, to start Aug. 1, brought about 20 residents to the
municipal courtroom to meet with Conroe Police Chief Charlie Ray. The
meeting placed individual citizens and community organizations of
Dugan, the mostly black area the crackdown will target, in a position
to ask questions and express their concerns.

The War on Drugs in Conroe was declared in June by Mayor Tommy Metcalf
and supported by Ray. It has already received unanimous approval from
the City Council to be funded from a citation collection agency. The
effort will include more officers and undisclosed tactics to the tune
of more than $300,000 between Aug. 1 and Sep. 2005. Monday night many
citizens made reference to the crackdown as "the mayor's plan" since
he first introduced the idea and the funding source. However, Mayor
Tommy Metcalf was not present at the meeting due to a previous family

Conroe resident Carl White said he questioned whether the War on Drugs
was just another way to place young minorities behind bars with no
real rehabilitative process or alternatives.

"We want to see the streets cleaned up but we don't want young black
men being (wrongly) harassed," he said.

Everyone at the meeting agreed that harassment and violation of
citizens' rights was a serious concern among the residents. Ray
informed the crowd that the police department does have an Office of
Professional Conduct (commonly known as Internal Affairs) where
reports against officers can be addressed.

The Rev. William Denman of Dugan said he was pleased with the upcoming
plan and feels a stronger police presence is urgently needed. "Just
down the street from me they were selling drugs like it was a (popular
drive-in burger place)," he said. "They were just driving through." He
said he called the police and within days he and his wife were
awakened by a SWAT team who had come to make a bust. "I was happy."

Ray said Metcalf talks about eradication of drugs, which he called a
"tall order" that he wasn't sure could be met.

"But we are going to make every effort to make life better," he said.
Ray also said he shared the vision and intentions of the program with
Montgomery County District Attorney Mike McDougal, who was also
present, about the prosecution of resulting incidents.

"It is important that (the police department) form relationships with
the (black) community to build up a level of trust and respect so that
the lines of communication can be open and we can solve these problems
together," Ray said.

At times the meeting resembled a Bible study with several pastors who
were present sharing inspirational words with the group and emotional
examples of the kind of illegal activity that happens in front of
families daily.

The Rev. B.J. Plattenburg, president of Alpha 2000, a community
development organization, yielded some "Amens" as he asked the
residents to start working together toward a long-term plan for change
and progress in the area.

Conroe Police Deputy Chief Philip Dupuis reassured the crowd that the
upcoming plan was not the last ray of hope for normal life in Dugan.
"If this plan doesn't work, we're going to find another one. And if
that doesn't work we'll find another one. We are not going to stop,"
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin