Madisonville Residents Continue Calls for Police Change

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A concerned group of Madisonville residents took their concerns directly to their city council. Tuesday night, the group formally made their demands to end what they believe is racially profiling by the city's police department.

Among the demands of the Concerned Citizens of Madisonville is a change in the policy of consent searches: asking to search a vehicle without evidence of a crime. Statistics brought by activist Kenavon Carter show 85 percent of searches last year in Madisonville were consent.

"That 85 percent consent search rate is nothing to be proud of," Carter said, "and it's going to bring a whole bunch of attention down here as people start to question police practices."

Also demanded by the CCM are the creation of a citizen review panel to investigate police misconduct, as well as an end to what the group calls overzealous use of wrecker services to take cars away on minor violations.

"Put things in place that can limit the discretion of police officers to target people and target the citizens of Madisonville," Carter said. "That's all we're asking."

The city council said a review of the demands and the potential results would take time, but that by the end of the month, the council would try to meet to discuss the situation.

"My understanding is that this boils down to education, educating the people on what their rights are," said Councilmember Terri Creel.

Police Chief George Sweetin says he is more than willing to sit down with city officials and citizens to discuss the concerns, but also says he believes his department's policies are fair and effective to all citizens.

When he arrived in Madisonville around a decade ago, Sweetin said things were much different.

"On Thursday and Friday nights, you couldn't walk down the street or get to a stop sign because the dope dealers were in town selling their narcotics," he said.

And Sweetin says while the consent search percentage is high, it has served to reduce the amount of illegal activity. He says those searches have even recently turned up large amounts of drugs and even weapons like AK-47s.

On the topic of the review panel, Sweetin says the city council, city manager and other agencies are enough checks to make sure his department is compliant.

And on the so-called "overzealous use" of wrecker services, he says his department would not be liable for the theft of or damage to vehicles if they leave them for loved ones or friends to pick-up. Sweetin also discussed attending a CCM meeting, and described who he saw voicing their concerns.

"Twenty-five percent that I saw in the meeting I attended were fine, outstanding citizens and productive citizens of this community," he said. "Seventy-five percent of them were either under federal indictment, state indictment, on probation, on parole or ex-convicts, so I don't hold a lot of stock in those type of people."

The HipHop Against Brutality and ACLU groups have vowed to remain vested in the area until they are satisfied citizens are being treated properly, a claim the police department already makes.

That percentage of consent searches in Madisonville (85 percent) is more than double the state average, according to speakers for the concerned citizens.