One thing continues to be missing during the latest accusations of racism directed at the Allen County criminal justice system by the Rev. Ronald Fails, president of the Lima chapter of the NAACP.
In taking his swipes at law enforcement this month, there has been little acknowledgement from Fails that the person he is representing — 51-year-old Leonard Bingham Jr. — was knowingly and willfully breaking the law.
Don’t get us wrong.
In no way are we condoning the actions of Lima police officer Dustin Brotherwood, who used a false statement to help obtain a search warrant into Bingham’s residence. Brotherwood claimed a confidential informant purchased drugs from the suspect, information which later was proven to be erroneous.
And we also question whether Brotherword’s punishment — a verbal reprimand — truly holds him accountable for what amounts to violating someone’s civil rights, even if Brotherwood’s actions were just a matter of carelessness, as Police Chief Kevin Martin maintains.
But as wrong as those things are, so is the near silence from Fails concerning criminal activities affecting members of the black community.
In this case, Bingham was no Boy Scout. He was a drug dealer, found guilty by a judge of preying on others by selling cocaine and marijuana. He also was found guilty of a weapon’s violation.
Fails had the opportunity to speak out strongly against drug dealing and criminal activity in Lima by both black and white people. He had the chance to say it cannot be tolerated by the community, just as sloppy police work cannot be tolerated.
He had the chance to shine the light on the unsolved murders of 23-year-old Carrington Lott, shot during a party at the UAW Hall last July, and 25-year-old Anthony Bankston, gunned down at a South Main Street spot two weeks ago.
He had the chance to show leadership, to cast the local NAACP as an organization that is pushing to make Lima a safer city.
Fails could have proven he doesn’t have a vendetta against local law enforcement for his own past dealings with the court system and wanted to truly fix what ails the local community.
Instead, he just made passing reference to the crimes that had police watching Bingham. It was if Fails was putting on blinders and excusing Bingham’s crime because of the policeman’s action.
For too long the local NAACP leadership has been too defensive about crime. It has been reluctant to speak strongly and publicly about the issues many of its supporters whisper about privately: the need to call out the criminals and hold them accountable for their actions, just like the organization does when they believe police are wrong.
It’s a shame that Fails chose to grandstand by proclaiming that police, prosecutors and judges in Allen County suffer from a “systemic” pattern of “institutionalized racism from top to bottom.” Such harsh accusations, in effect, point a finger at everyone who works in the Allen County criminal justice system, both black and white.
This is not to say law enforcement in Allen County is not without its issues. It is to say the local NAACP is helping no one with its lackadaisical approach to addressing Lima’s crime problem.
The goal of both police and the NAACP should be to work together to ensure that criminal activity will not be tolerated.