SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - City leaders tried several different times to meet with the head of the NAACP and a local pastor who were concerned about what they said were allegations of police mistreatment of citizens, but they called off those meetings three out of four times according to an email WBTV received from council member Karen Alexander.
The head of the Salisbury-Rowan NAACP is calling for protests unless Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins steps down from his job.
"Justice is a big word," Teamer said. "But gets very little attention."
Scott Teamer made that announcement at a news conference Tuesday morning. Teamer was joined by Reverend Bill Godair of Cornerstone Church.
Godair says that five families in his church suffered unspecified mistreatment at the hands of Salisbury Police officers.
Godair claimed that he sent notes to Salisbury Mayor Paul Woodson and city council member Karen Alexander about the alleged mistreatment, but received only a "thank you" reply from Alexander.
"This is serious stuff," Godair said. "This is serious stuff."
WBTV obtained the actual email Godair sent to Woodson and Alexander, in which Godair calls for a change in leadership at the police department.
"Good afternoon! Over the course of the last few months, I have dealt with three different situations involving accusations against the Salisbury Police Department. Today, I was contacted by Scott Teamer concerning different situations that have transpired recently with the Salisbury Police Department."
"Approximately one year ago, I felt I was extremely mistreated by a Salisbury Police officer (I have never shared this with you). My wife was in my vehicle when this incident occurred and was scared by his actions. We honestly thought that I would be arrested."
"Because of the situations I have recently dealt along with my personal experience, I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Teamer, that we need a leadership change at the Salisbury Police Department. Mr. Teamer has given me his word that his intentions are not to embarrass the City of Salisbury, the Mayor or City Council. Of course, as your friend, it's definitely not my intention to bring embarrassment to any of you (City Council)."
"The reason for this email is because I will be on a family vacation next week; therefore, not able to attend the meeting scheduled. I consider you both my personal friends and I hope that you receive this email in the same spirit that it was written."
Godair signed the email "God bless."
But the unedited email from Alexander that was in response to Godair's actually says more than just "thank you:"
"Thanks for your perspective. I look forward to meeting our meeting next week. Enjoy your family time. Warmest Regards, Karen."
Godair's complaint had to do with his being pulled over for speeding in 2013. The pastor said that he threw a toothpick out of the window of his car so that it wouldn't be in his mouth when he spoke to the officer. Godair said the officer was aggressive in questioning him about what he threw out the window.
Godair did not file a complaint with police at the time of the incident, according to police records.
Teamer demanded that Chief Rory Collins step down or be removed from office.
The email from Karen Alexander shows that city leaders set up four meetings with Teamer.
There was a meeting on April 7 that included Alexander, Teamer, "local ministers," and Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell.
Meetings scheduled for 7/18, 8/6, and meetings twice set for 8/12 were canceled by Teamer, according to the email.
The NAACP says that if Collins does not resign, they will begin protesting in Salisbury. They say they also want better training for officers and a citizens review board for the department.
"I'm not mad at the Mayor, the City Council, or the Chief of Police," Godair wrote in a Facebook post. "I'm just a pastor/citizen who is concerned."
Godair also wrote that he spoke with Chief Collins Monday and Collins claimed he was not aware of the complaints.
Collins told WBTV the same thing and said that he was looking into the complaints.
Teamer called for a change in training at the police department, and said the department's culture must be changed from the top. Teamer claimed that officers used excessive force, without citing any specific examples.
"We have what we think are unwarranted strip searches," Teamer said. "When defendants were not arrested but humiliated and left to go home."
Teamer also said that there would be protests if Collins did not step down.
"We don't want Salisbury to become another Missouri or Florida," Teamer said. "And we will do whatever it takes. We will march, we will protest, we will file appeals to higher departments of justice. We're willing to do what we have to do."
Teamer came to the WBTV-Salisbury bureau Tuesday afternoon to talk about the allegations, saying his actions against Collins are not personal.
"It's nothing personal at all," Teamer said. "It's about all these allegations and nothing changes."
WBTV asked Teamer why no specific examples were made available and he said it was because some of the individuals involved were, or could be part of civil lawsuits. Teamer said there was a DVD recording of one incident, but declined to make it available.
Late Tuesday afternoon Chief Collins issued the following statement through email:
"I have become aware of a Press Conference which occurred earlier today during which local pastor, Reverend Bill Godair and the NAACP discussed concerns with respect to complaints of excessive force and misconduct on the part of officers of the Salisbury Police Department."
"Unfortunately, due to the nature of our work, it is not uncommon for folks to file complaints against police officers. The Police Department takes these complaints seriously and investigates 100% of them."
"The Police Department is committed to serving our community to the best of its ability and in the most professional manner possible. I would ask that, any citizen who has a specific complaint regarding an officer, please feel free to contact my office."