The nation, it seems, is on fire and that has Bob Brown concerned.
“To say it worries me is an understatement,” says Brown. “Not only what's going on in North Carolina but what's going on in the country - all over the place, not just North Carolina.”
Bob Brown grew up in High Point and after other presidential candidates had a tough time going into some cities to give speeches during the 1968 campaign, some people on Richard Nixon’s staff asked Brown if he could manage a trip to New York. Nixon made that trip without protesters disrupting any of his appearances … and Brown then found himself on Nixon’s plane, next to the candidate, for the rest of the campaign and, later, on Nixon’s staff at the White House.
Although 2016 is not the same as the 1960s, Brown sees some parallels, particularly in how some in society are fighting the police.
Brown understands their grievance, to a degree.
“We live in a society that is, that color still has that little edge to it,” he notes, and then talks about times he was stopped by the police for no apparent reason other than he was a black man.
But he’s seen the other side, too. Brown was one of the first African-Americans recruited to be part of the police department in his hometown of High Point.
“As a policeman, I stopped people so I know what's fair and what's not,” says Brown. “I know what a policeman should be doing when he walks up to that car and asks me for my driver’s license. He can ask me in such that it can make me angry, he can ask me in such a way as to where I want to cooperate with him.”
What he wants today’s protesters to understand, though, is that there is a way to question authority that is productive.
“We have to be careful how we attack the police,” says Brown. “I would hate to see any community in this nation without a police force. The police are one of the most vital elements in any community, anywhere in the world.”
Sentiments echoed by Greensboro’s police chief, Wayne Scott.
“Just about everywhere we turn, now, we see points of stress,” says Scott. “And, here in Greensboro, we started the Building Bridges campaign almost a year ago and it's as clear as can be: We're trying to build bridges, build connections in those communities that we have traditionally struggled in.”
And Scott understands that any organization built with humans will have all the frailties from which any group of humans cannot escape.
“I have over 900 employees for the City of Greensboro,” says Scott. “Almost 700 of them are sworn police officers who carry a badge and have the authority to arrest. We make mistakes, obviously. You show me a group of individuals of that size that doesn't. But the difference is, how do we react? And do we react in the right way, do we do it properly, do we listen to what our community concerns are? And I think that we do.”
See the full story of police and minority communities in this edition of the Buckley Report.