Family of man beaten by Raleigh officer weighs in on ‘defund the police’ movement

RALEIGH (WTVD) — It only took a few hours before City of Raleigh crews scrubbed Cabarrus Street clean of the message of protest painted outside the Raleigh Police Downtown District.

Over the weekend, someone or some group painted the word “Abolish” outside the police precinct.

“I can’t answer that right now,” said Shannon Utley to the question of if police should be defunded. “I think there needs to be a better way. It’s not working; clearly it’s not working.”

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Utley is a Raleigh social worker who knows and works with her share of good police officers. But when she tries to sleep at night, she says visions of the police dash cam video from April 3, 2018 is what keeps her up.

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Kyron Hinton, the father of Utley’s 9-year old daughter, was seen being beaten and mauled by a Wake County sheriff’s deputy, his K-9 partner and North Carolina state troopers on the tapes.

What devolved into this beating and dog mauling began when Hinton’s family says he was in the midst of a mental health crisis; acting erratically in the street when several neighbors called 911.

Utley said she often wonders what would have happened if there was an alternative to calling 911, like emergency social workers or mental health professionals always on call.

“It would be a de-escalation,” Utley said. “Rather than what you saw on tape with the dog and saying, ‘Get down or you’re gonna get bit!’ Not a volatile situation; not, ‘I’m gonna get you;’ It should be, ‘I’m here to help you.'”

In a virtual town forum, Monday, hosted by the NC CRED, the North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities, moderators posed the question of what the future of policing should look like.

Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis told the panel she does see opportunities to reallocate some portion of funds away from police towards efforts like social workers and mental health professionals better equipped for certain emergencies.

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“There’s probably not many chiefs of police in the country that would not agree that certain services that fall in the laps of police departments should go to some other entity,” Davis said. “I haven’t figured out what the proposal is yet for community members or individuals to be the surrogates for other types of incidents or crime that (police) still continue to have to respond to. But, I do think that there is an opportunity to review and look at how taxpayer dollars are spent.”

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Community activist Kerwin Pittman, co-founder of Raleigh Demands Justice, puts defunding the police near the top of its list of demands for change.

“Ideally it would be a social worker who would come in trained,” Pittman said about the majority of calls to police that come for nonviolent encounters.

But communities count on being able to call 911 anytime they need, 24 hours a day, seven days a week – times and hours when social workers and mental health pros are not at the ready. Pittman says under the defund police strategy, those alternative professional would be standing by much like police officers are now.

“Just like you have fire departments available, just like EMS, (social workers and mental health professionals) should be part of that essential team,” Pittman said.

For Shannon Utley, she says the alternative is more essential now than ever.

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