West Memphis revisited 

Race-divided city now finds blacks pitted against one another.

Page 3 of 7

Councilman Pulliaum, who worked for 15 years as a patrolman and jailer for the Crittenden County Sheriff's office, was an early supporter of Paudert and is still sympathetic to the principle of "active" policing. In a recent interview, he added, however, that in order for this technique to work, law enforcement has to know the community and earn its trust.

Pulliaum, who has represented Ward Two on the City Council for 17 years, said that after taking the job as chief of police in West Memphis, Paudert seemed to change overnight. Black officers in senior positions began to leave the WMPD or were fired.

An article in the Evening Times newspaper quoted Councilwoman Lorraine Robinson as saying that her constituents were "outraged" by Paudert's decision to treat the east side of West Memphis differently. White council member Tracy Catt, who represents Ward One, also told the the Times that "every portion of this city deserves to have police presence." On Aug. 31, 10 days after changing the policy, Chief Paudert announced that the police department was resuming active policing on the east side of town. Controversy would remain, however, over the actions of the West Memphis Police Department.

Some in the black community decided that it was worth trying to reform an organization that had a long tradition in Crittenden County: The NAACP.

In 2004, three years before Farrow's death, a challenge had been made to the leadership of Willie Catha-Jones, who had served as president of the Crittenden County NAACP since 1994. Hubert Bass, now a Crittenden County justice of the peace, agreed to run against Catha-Jones, but before the vote took place, Dale Charles, president of the Arkansas Conference of Branches of the NAACP, drove from Little Rock to West Memphis and postponed the election. Catha-Jones was re-elected the following week.

Efforts by the reformers to change the leadership of the Crittenden County NAACP got in high gear in 2010. The reformers were led by Hubert Bass; Shabaka Afrika, owner of Afrika Books and Cultural Center, and Lawrence Brown. Brown, 33, with a doctorate in health and public policy from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis and a postdoctoral fellowship from the Kellogg Foundation at Morgan State University in Baltimore, was uniquely qualified for the role. Like a number of African-American leaders, he is also a preacher and served briefly as a temporary pastor at the Second Congregational United Church of Christ in Memphis.

In March 2010, in a single-spaced five-page letter, Brown wrote the national offices of the NAACP in Baltimore, setting out in detail specific allegations and violations of the organization's policy in four areas: (1) the use of West Memphis police to intimidate NAACP members opposed to Catha-Jones' leadership; (2) the failure of Catha-Jones to support efforts of the black community to protest the actions of the West Memphis Police Department; (3) the failure of the leadership to conduct official business meetings from December 2009 to April 2010, and (4) the failure of Catha-Jones to provide him with requested records of the Crittenden County NAACP during her tenure to determine the fiscal condition of the branch. Brown warned of litigation if these matters were not addressed.



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