The local branch of the NAACP and County Commissioner Homer Hartage have asked Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary for information into the nine shootings by sheriff's officials this year.
In separate letters, Hartage and Thomas Alston, executive director of the Orange County branch of the NAACP, have asked Beary for his department's policy regarding handgun use as well as all investigative reports and disciplinary actions related to the shootings.
Orlando's black community is still mourning the loss of Andrea Hall, mistakenly shot and killed by police during a July hostage standoff.
Hartage says he made his request to better respond to complaints by residents to his office. But Alston says his request was the first step toward a comprehensive review of the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
"We have a couple of attorneys who are qualified to look at these things," Alston says.
Depending upon their findings, Alston says the NAACP might contact the national media with results. He added that the investigation had less to do with race than with sheriff's department policy. "It's not a black-white issue," Alston says. "The police shouldn't be shooting at anyone unless there's a direct threat."
He says not everyone in the black community was enthusiastic about taking on Beary, one of the most powerful elected officials in Orange County. "There was a lot of concern in the community about how we should respond," he says.
But that's not the only matter on Alston's agenda. He's wondering whether there's discrimination at work in the city's promotion of its recently renamed arena. How so?
Stand in front of the TD Waterhouse Centre from the north and what do you see? A large illuminated sign that says "TD Waterhouse Centre." Look from the east and south and you see the same thing: the TD Waterhouse emblem.
But from the west, visitors see nothing on the building but a big, empty wall.
That hasn't gone unnoticed by the people who live on the west side. And the perception of those African-American residents is that it looks like the Centre doesn't want to advertise to blacks.
"We feel that the selection to omit this side with appropriate similar TD Waterhouse signage for the area appears to be blatantly discriminatory," he writes in a letter to Mayor Glenda Hood.
Alston wants to know who decided to leave the building's west side blank.
Apparently it was the Orlando City Council. Discussing the name change on Feb. 7, council members were concerned that neighbors to the west would be offended by a large glowing sign. (As Orlando Arena, the building had no such signs.)
Not so, says Alston: "Our constituents are very happy to have TD Waterhouse as a visual member of the community."
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