Friday, July 22, 2016

Providence Mayor responds to KCHR claims of racial profiling

Last week, Providence Mayor Eddie Gooch responded to a letter sent from John J. Johnson, Executive Director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, to Amanda E. Gregory, Assistant United States Attorney, that made allegations of racial profiling and the mistreatment of minorities in the city of Providence.

The letter was sent from Johnson to Gregory late last month, urging the US Attorney’s office to investigate the city of Providence for human rights violations. Although citing alleged racial profiling and other rights violations by the Providence Police Department as the reason for the request, the majority of that letter seemed to deal with comments made by Gooch at a June city council meeting, where he referred to Black Lives Matter as a racist organization.

In a letter sent from Gooch to Gregory, the longtime Providence Mayor questioned not only the validity of such claims, but Johnson’s motivation behind calling for the investigation.

“I would like to know when it became the Executive Director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights’ job description to explain what the mission statement of the Black Lives Matter group is,” said Gooch.

He also pointed out a contradiction in Johnson’s letter to Gregory. 

In the opening paragraph Johnson stated “Please be advised that the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights has received verbal and written complaints from citizens in Providence, Kentucky, regarding alleged racial profiling, harassment and/or mistreatment of residents by certain city police officers.”
In the next to last paragraph, however, Johnson wrote, “While no formal complaints have been filed with the Commission, we would be remiss not to express grave concerns over allegations...”
To Gooch, this seems to be a sign that Johnson is working to create issues where none exist.

“Would it not be a felony or a crime to lie or make uninvestigated allegations to a Federal Agent, such as yourself?” he asked Gregory in his written response.

To the mayor, at least, the answer seems clear.

“This is a ploy by Mr. Johnson,” Gooch wrote. “We have never had racial tensions in Providence. Right now there is a nucleus of about five or six black residents, one or more of whom I suspect Mr. Johnson to be acquainted with, that have brought this issue up.”

Mayor Gooch referred to data recently presented by Providence Police Chief Brent McDowell that shows the black-to-white arrest and citation ratio in Providence over the last three years.
That number was 139-41 white to black in 2014, 187-44 in 2015 and 107-30 so far in 2016.
“The numbers speak for themselves, there is no racial profiling,” Gooch said.

Gooch not only acknowledge Johnson’s request for an investigation, he welcomed it.

“As the longest serving Mayor in the history of Providence, I welcome your investigation,” he said. 

“You will have 110% cooperation from any city department head and their staff that you need and access to all records, including police camera videos.”

Gooch has served as mayor of Providence for 12 and a half years, with another year and a half left on his current term.

John J. Johnson was appointed Executive Director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights in 2007. He  has also served as the Kentucky president of the NAACP for fourteen years, increasing Kentucky NAACP branches from four to forty-two, and served as an elected member of the NAACP’s national Board of Directors, where he was elected vice presidents. He eventually became the NAACP’s chief executive of operations, where he oversaw the executive office of the President and CEO.

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