NAACP Takes Aim at Firing

Margaret Gibbons, Times Herald (Norristown, Pennsylvania), October 3, 2008

Members of Montgomery County’s [Pennsylvania] black community Thursday called on the county commissioners to hire and promote more blacks to leadership positions in county government and to be more sensitive to allegations of racial discrimination within county government.

The focal point of their criticism was District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman’s firing last August of Reginald A. Roberts, a former Norristown police officer and a nine-year veteran of the county detective bureau and the county’s lone black county detective, although the bureau is headed by Chief Oscar Vance Jr., who also is black.

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“We are collectively concerned with the apparent lack of sensitivity or concern by the county detectives and the district attorney’s office for fairness in the minority community,” said John Milligan, a member of the executive committee of the Norristown chapter of the NAACP.

In addition to his concern about the handling of the Roberts situation, Milligan said he also was concerned that the lack of blacks as county detectives that has “resulted in a white-faced department policing the minority community,” causing a polarizing effect on the minority community.

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Ambler NAACP President Evelyn Warner expanded on the NAACP’s more general concerns, noting that the county has had few blacks in positions of authority.

“There is a lingering problem of racism in the county,” said Warner, pointing out that there has been only one black judge since the county was founded in 1784 and none currently. “We do not get respect.”

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While Vance may be the only black detective, Ferman said her office has a “number of” Hispanic detectives.

In addition, Ferman said, she and members of her staff meet often with minority clergy and send minority staff members to schools to serve as positive role models.

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