A week after a police shooting shook the city and garnered national attention, Mayor Nancy McFarlane on Monday vowed to strengthen ties with the Southeast Raleigh community.
Senior Officer D.C. Twiddy shot and killed 24-year-old Akiel Denkins, according to a police report, while attempting to arrest him for failing to appear in court on a felony drug charge Feb. 29. Police say Twiddy shot Denkins because he felt endangered during a physical confrontation, while neighbors have said they believe Twiddy shot Denkins from behind as he was running away.
Without offering specifics, McFarlane said during her annual State of the City speech Monday that she hopes to address holes in government systems that could have led to the tragedy.
“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they are falling in,” she said, quoting South African anti-apartheid activist Desmond Tutu.
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Politicians often use such speeches to highlight their accomplishments or praise their city or state.
McFarlane listed Raleigh’s 4.1 percent unemployment rate and its recent U.S. News & World Report ranking as the fourth-best place to live in the United States. But she warned that Raleigh would be defined more by the way it responds to challenges than by the number of plaudits it collects.
“When we are reciting our accolades, we want to know that we are doing all that we can to make sure that every person, every child in Raleigh has the support system that they need to have the opportunity to be a part of our success story,” McFarlane said.
“For us to come together as a community and move forward, I believe the key is to really, really listen to each other,” she continued. “We talk and we talk and that’s good, but we also need to listen, listen to the emotion behind the words.”
The City Council, Wake school system, local law enforcement and social services could all play a role in improving Raleigh’s quality of life, McFarlane said. But she cautioned that there’s “no one answer” that would solve the city’s problems.
McFarlane’s comments come as some in Southeast Raleigh are considering withholding their support for a proposed Wake Transit Plan until the area garners more attention from city and county leaders, said Danny Coleman, chairman of the South Central Citizens Advisory Council.
County commissioners hope to pay for the plan, which would add bus routes and bring commuter rail lines to Raleigh by 2027, with a half-cent sales tax increase that Wake residents will vote on in a November referendum.
“We want to get to the point where we’re not just looked upon as impediments to growth but as attributes to growth,” Coleman said.
The mayor’s speech showed progress, he said.
McFarlane spoke during a Rotary Club event at the Raleigh Convention Center, where the crowd of nearly 100 people interrupted her with applause as she praised Raleigh police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown and religious leaders in Southeast Raleigh.
She mentioned Bishop Darnell Dixon of Bible Way Temple who, after residents protested peacefully, asked McFarlane, “What do you think of us now?”
“The world watched us, and we responded differently than they expected,” she said. “We are a community that pulls together and supports each other.”
McFarlane credited Deck-Brown for pushing her officers to build trust with Raleigh residents.
“She understands the importance of having the police in the community engaging in open conversations with citizens,” she said.
McFarlane declined to comment on the SBI investigation into Twiddy’s actions or elaborate on how she wants to improve relations with Southeast Raleigh.
“I want the world to look at Raleigh and say that we are different,” she said in closing. “That we faced a tragedy together, we worked together and found ways to bridge gaps and (that) we emerged a better community.”