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Police chief chats about safety

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Jermaine McNair and Timothy Webster review a map of pedestrian crashes between 2013 and 2017 with GPD Chief Mark Holtzman on Jan.10, 2017. (Joe Pellegrino/The Daily Reflector)

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Beth Velliquette

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Better lighting, better road striping and some concrete barriers should make the streets safer for pedestrians in Greenville, Police Chief Mark Holtzman said Tuesday night.

Holtzman brought out maps to show those who attended a Tuesday night meeting of the Police Community Relations Committee where the trouble spots are for pedestrians and how he hopes to make those areas safer. He spoke at a “Chat with the Chief” meeting held at the Barnes-Ebron-Taft Community Center.

New LED lights have been put up in areas near Dickinson and West 14th avenues, and he hopes there will be new light poles put up to light dark areas, too. Because the residential roads in that area do not have sidewalks, he also would like to have a bike lane along the side of the road so kids and adults walking or on bikes would know that’s the safe place to be, rather than walking in the middle of the street.

On East 10th Street near River Bluff Road and on Statonsburg Road near the hospital, where people end up standing in the center lane waiting to get across the street, Holtzman said he’d like to paint a crosswalk at those places and put some concrete barriers in the center lane so that people would have a safe place to stand while they try to get across the street. Tenth Street is scheduled to have a median put in, but he’d like the barriers in place in the meantime, he said.

Holtzman touched on a number of topics during the chat, including his plans to consult with the Police Community Relations Committee on proposed policies.

“We need to engage the intellectual muscle of the PCRC board,” he said.

The first policy will be the use of force policy. Anyone can look at it online on the department’s website, and he’d like the committee to review it then sit down at a table and discuss it with him.

The police department also is going to be training its officers on two issues — how to be fair and impartial and how to deescalate a tense situation.

After an increase in police killings across the nation, the pastor at Koinonia Christian Center Church called and asked what she could do to help, Holtzman said. He told the pastor he would like to train his officers in deescalation techniques, but it is expensive.

The church donated some money to help fund the training on the condition it be open to all law enforcement officers in the area. That training will start soon, he said.

Holtzman also told the group the police department has produced a video that shows people what officers are doing when they conduct a traffic stop and what a driver should do when stopped. The video will be on the department’s website later this week, according to Kristen Hunter, the public information officer for the department.

School resource officers will show the video at local high schools and hand out business-card size pamphlets that tell people their rights and responsibilities. The card, called the CARE card, also is being distributed through the Cops and Barbers program.

It tells people what to do if they’re stopped for an investigation, what their rights are and how they should behave during a stop. It also gives information on how to file a complaint against an officer. 

“If everyone knows what the rules are, there’s less violence,” he said. “That’s our goal.”

Contact Beth Velliquette at bvelliquette@reflector.com or at 252-329-9566.

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