Friday, 20 July 2018 16:38

Mental health crisis highlighted during barbershop meeting

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A customer discusses speeding and noise as Barnes works on his hair. A customer discusses speeding and noise as Barnes works on his hair.

One of the recurring themes at the Roanoke Rapids Police Department’s first Meet Me at the Barbershop forum today was the mental health issues plaguing not only the area but the state.

The police department met with employees and customers at Super Cut II in the Lowe’s Shopping Center to hear from those who came to the shop Ronald Barnes has run for the past 30 years.

“I want to leave this by saying one of the biggest challenges we have is mental health,” said Halifax County Board of Commissioners Chairman Vernon Bryant. “It’s one of the biggest challenges we face in the city, county and state. It’s completely broken. It needs to be fixed.”

The issue was first brought up during a discussion on the homeless problem in the city, Chief Chuck Hasty explaining the city has the Union Mission for men but the closest place for homeless women is Rocky Mount. “We offer to help if people want to accept help.”

Hasty said families in need of help can call 211 where callers can find an array of resources for help including those for housing and shelter, healthcare and mental health and substance abuse.

Hasty said the state’s mobile crisis team is two hours away. Roanoke Rapids officers carry listings of the various resources available.

Barnes said he was glad Hasty chose his barbershop to start the discussions. “I think it’s a good idea. I always believe we should be involved in the community. We’re always better when we work together. We’ve always had a good police force here — one of the best in the state.”

Hasty drew upon the idea from talks with Cary police Chief Tony Godwin and Tru Pettigrew, who developed the Community Organizers Helping Officers to Restore Trust course, a bridge-building program between the community and police.

It was in Cary where Pettigrew and Godwin began Saturday barbershop meetings to discuss issues, a program which began with eight to nine people and has swelled to between 65 to 80 people each week representing all races and faiths, Godwin said.

The Cary Police Department, Pettigrew said, “Wanted to know what they could do to change hearts and minds.”

The Cary officer who spoke with Pettigrew, he said, “He listened to understand where I was coming from.”

Pettigrew had come to the police department after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, with questions of what the police department would do to keep his then 2-year-old son safe.

Pettigrew, Godwin said, became part of the bridge-building team. “I’m at the end of my career. The last four years have been absolutely the best.”

Beyond the discussions of mental health and the homeless being raised, were a few complaints of speeding and loud music, which Hasty said later would be looked into and given to officers to monitor.

Terry Buffaloe, a Roanoke Rapids resident, brought up a video which had been posted to social media of a Taser being deployed on a black man at Walmart and asked whether it was excessive force.

Hasty said the clip on social media only showed a brief part of what happened. The officers pleaded with the man, who was causing a disruption by cursing and coming in with his shirt off,  for 20 minutes to leave the store after he had previously been requested by the store’s staff to do so. “He fought when they handcuffed him and started to kick. That’s when he was Tased. We have it under review. It’s still pending.”

Enfield police Chief Tyree Davis was impressed with the forum. “I’ll have to take the message back to our community.”

Barnes was pleased with the discussions at his shop. “I have no complaints with the police department. You guys are the best.”

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