Members of Pocomoke’s Black Community Voice Support for Indicted Chief

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Residents question the timing of misconduct charges by state prosecutors six months after the former chief Kelvin Sewell filed a lawsuit against the city alleging discrimination.

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TAYA GRAHAM: This is Taya Graham reporting for the Real News Network in Pocomoke City, Maryland

TODD NOCK: God I’m asking for you to be with us father. God to walk with us god. God to talk for us god. God to see for us, god. God let us go before people god, and allow them to see you god. God in your name I pray, amen.

GRAHAM: Summer has settled onto the streets and byways of Pocomoke on Maryland’s eastern shore. But the calm be lies the turmoil that still roils the town over the firing of their first black police chief Kelvin Sewell last year. Last week when the Citizen for a Better Pocomoke gathered for their regular meeting, there was a palpable sense of concern that the continuing controversy over his dismissal has changed the town.

JAMES PRUNELL: The community has been violated. And it’s just like, I’m going to tell you, it’s the psyche of this community is really in turmoil.

GRAHAM: Sewell claimed the firing was retaliation for refusing to fire two of his black officers. The federal EEOC which enforces discrimination laws agreed. But since then Sewell and his Lieutenant Lionel Green have been indicted by state prosecutor Emmitt Davitt for misconduct in office. Charges stemming from an accident 2 years ago involving parked cars and a driver who fell asleep. And now the residents who support Sewell are grappling with the implications and how the removal of Sewell still impacts their lives.

PRUNELL: I saw something the other day where there was an incident that took place here. Yea that’s what we need.

[[CROWD]]: Last Friday.

GRAHAM: A week ago, residents say, a massive fight occurred. Dozens of young teens including girls descended on 4th street and battled for at least an hour.

SHEILA NELSON: Those girls were really fighting. I mean bottom line they were fighting. My sister and I tried to break them up and we kind of, I was kind of able to separate them and tell them it was crazy, it was stupid, what are you doing? And I mean the streets were literally full.

SPEAKER: One hundred people.

NELSON: 15 minutes later, the police car comes. And I said to him, I said where you all been? This has been going on for 15 minutes.

GRAHAM: The fight required the intervention of multiple police agencies but for many who attended the meeting, it’s a sign the town is changing. Which is why residents also expressed concerns about the indictment. Both the timing and the nature of the alleged crime.

NOCK: Chief Sewell was the piece of wood between the gap of the police and the citizens of Pocomoke. We don’t respect the police anymore. These kids in the streets do not respect the police anymore. They respected Chief Sewell.

GRAHAM: Prosecutors allege Sewell helped a black resident avoid the consequences of the car accident. But residence wonder about the timing of the charges which came 6 months after he filed a lawsuit, claiming discrimination and 2 years after the crash occurred.

PASTOR RONNIE WHITE: The people that are in the lawsuit that’s being charged in lawsuit, I felt like they were try to come back at the Chief to try to indict his character.

GRAHAM: We asked both state prosecutors and town officials for comment. They declined. For now residents say they will continue to support Sewell with hope that he will someday return which wants and they say needs him back.

NELSON: I would say 90% of the Pocomoke community step in right behind him. There’s no doubt in my mind when I first heard it–a corrupt cop. How ridiculous does that really sound?

NOCK: We know the tactics and the ploys of the cronies so to speak up at City Hall and in the Wester county government. We know all the tricks of the trade by now. We’ve been dealing with them for a substantial period of time. We know that Chief Sewell is telling the truth.

GRAHAM: This is Taya Graham and Stephen Janis reporting for the Real News Network in Pocomoke City, Maryland. For full disclosure, Stephen Janis wrote a book with Kelvin D. Sewell.

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