A Look At Law Enforcement's Relationship With Minorities In East Texas - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

05/17/05 - East Texas

A Look At Law Enforcement's Relationship With Minorities In East Texas

by Stuart Burson

The Reverend Jesse Jackson is speaking out about last week's police shooting in Compton, California.

That shooting happened after a high speed chase. Deputies fired more than 120 rounds at the unarmed driver of an SUV. That driver was black.

Los Angeles County deputies first started chasing 44 year old Winston Hayes after he refused to yield. Deputies were able to block the vehicle. They fired shots at the SUV striking Hayes four times. He's recovering from his injuries.

A lawyer for the deputies says they thought Hayes had a gun and was using his vehicle as a weapon.

The incident in California is putting relations between law enforcement and minorities in the national spotlight. How are those same relations here in East Texas?

"The police department does the same thing. I feel like I can speak for everyone in the county, for law enforcement in general, we don't treat anybody any differently because of the race or anything else. We get a call, we go out there and handle it." says Angelina County Sheriff Kent Henson.

The Sheriff doesn't think twice when you ask him about incidents involving law enforcement and minorities.

"You don't have time to stop and think about right and wrong... you do what you're trained to do. They don't train you to shoot somebody because they're black or because they're white, or this, that or the other. You're not trained that way. You're trained to protect yourself."

It was in the summer of 2003 when the Angelina County Sheriff's Department came under fire after a deputy fatally shot a black man following a traffic stop on Loop 287 in Lufkin. Some claimed the stop happened because of racial profiling. After a struggle, a deputy wound up shot, the man in the SUV was killed.

"That was not racially motivated. Had it been a Hispanic or a White that done that, the results would have been exactly the same. There was a lot of stuff in the background that I can't go into or won't go into because I don't see there's any need in it."

NAACP spokesman John Morrison believes racial profiling is practiced in East Texas.

"Our state executive committee has said that East Texas was a problem area when it comes to racial profiling." says Morrison.

So, how does Morrison feel about law enforcement and its relationship with minorities in East Texas?

"There's always room for improvement. And I wouldn't say it's good or bad, I'd just say that there's a lot more that needs to be done to better, to improve the relationship with the law enforcement here in East Texas."

Morrison says it's a relationship that will take work from both sides if things are to improve.

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