Spring Hill resident: All we want is respect

Hey, Mike Chitwood. I respect what you have been doing for our city.

And yes, you’re right — it wasn’t good that things happened to your deputies.

Now, my thing is, what about us?

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Sabrina Hightower lives in Spring Hill

The police talk to people like crap with no respect for the humans that we are. We come to you to seek help, and we get treated like crap, even when we try to do the right thing.

Now, me, I’m deep in your system, only because your department doesn’t give a damn.

When you go there, they treat you like crap.

If you don’t believe it, go look at your cameras and see how many times I left your department crying. They were times when I was trying to save myself from trouble.

My thing is, everybody is human. I know you have seen the video of how your police acted out there. If you’re going to be the law, be the law.

What phone call did you get before the problems with guns? Nothing. Y’all didn’t receive a call saying anybody did anything.

So, please stop trying to make your “law” look good. Because the first place to start is at your department and the way deputies and officers talk to us.

There is a way to talk to people, and it’s something your deputies do not know how to do.

When you came here, you also didn’t like some of the things the police were doing and you fired some yourself. So, what makes you so right about your officers out here?

Sometimes we go to jail for nothing, after being jumped on. And that’s part of your system too.

What I need you to do is see things both ways. I know you see the videos of your police being disrespectful to people for nothing. What about when they closed the C-Store for nothing (in the aftermath of a May 16 block party)? But then they opened it again. What was that about?

I’ve been wanting to say something to you, because to be real, you do try.

Do you see what I said? I said, YOU try. Not all deputies do. Maybe you need to come down out of your helicopter a little, and get on the ground more.

Then you didn’t like what The Beacon wrote. At least [Beacon writer Eli Witek] put in what happened to y’all too. So WHY are you so mad? Is it because she had in the story about officers doing wrong before the gun problem?

Did you tell the world the police were pulling off women’s wigs, and telling people to “go the f***” off, when all they had to do was show a little respect?

Don’t you think we deserve respect from your officers? Don’t you think we deserve to be talked to right?

DeLand Downtown does the same thing, but they don’t have more people than us.

That’s the only difference: They drink everywhere, there are drugs, guns, and more. I don’t see the police there.

Please know, I’m not being disrespectful — I’m just telling you how it is out here.

So, please don’t take it the wrong way. I’m just one of the people that know our rights. I was kicked in the stomach out here in the past, and I couldn’t tell the police anything because, in their eyes, I am just a criminal. Because I’ve had charges, they don’t listen. Am I not still human?

Mr. Chitwood, I am asking you to look more into your officers, before jumping to judge us.

All black people are not bad. Sometimes, we can’t take it anymore out here, sir.

Who is going to listen to us?

Don’t get mad at The Beacon because they listened. Maybe the DeLand Police Department and the Volusia Sheriff’s Office can start too.

— Sabrina Hightower is a resident of Spring Hill. Originally posted to Facebook on May 17, this is reprinted with permission.


Sheriff: We must face an ugly history and move forward together

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Michael Chitwood is Volusia County sheriff

Our country has an ugly history of racism and bigotry, and the chapters are still being written today.

Our nation was built on the backs of slaves whose descendants have been disenfranchised, discriminated against, segregated and lynched. This is the bitter truth that all of us have to acknowledge no matter our skin color or political beliefs. Racism is still alive in America, and to pretend we live in a post-racial world is either wishful thinking or denial.

We’re too young as a country to have already moved on from our shameful past. Our legacy of slavery, segregation and denial of basic civil rights is so heinous that it will continue to have lingering effects for generations.

I say all this in an attempt to set the tone for our community moving forward as we talk about what happened recently in DeLand.

As many of you have seen on video, our deputies and police officers were dispersing large block parties this weekend, and had just made a lawful arrest of a convicted felon handling a loaded gun, when parts of the crowd turned against them, throwing bottles and glass jars.

The behavior from the crowd was unacceptable and dangerous. The deputies and police officers did the best they could in extremely difficult circumstances, and I commend every one of them for resolving the situation without retaliation, prejudice or fear.

Online, the reaction to the video footage has been varied. I believe most saw the video for what it is: a few outnumbered deputies and police officers trying their best to shut down a party that got too large at night, and blocked too many streets and neighborhoods. There was a gun pointed at a crowd and a deputy; there was a shooting that thankfully didn’t kill anyone. We had a responsibility to be there and to disperse the crowds.

Because the majority of those in the crowd were black, and the deputies and police were white, we are now having to have hard conversations about race, racism and inequality.

I don’t accept the accusations that our deputies and police are racists, or that their actions Saturday were racially motivated. It’s not true, and it’s not a fair conclusion from the video.

But given everything we know about our nation’s history, I also know those feelings aren’t just about Saturday night.

That’s why I’m asking everyone to hit pause and take a second to cool off, myself included.

Just as we often ask our critics not to judge law enforcement by the bad actions of a few, we can’t pass broad judgment on others.

To those of you who have spoken out in our defense, I sincerely thank you for your support of our deputies and police. To those of you who are angry about the behavior of the crowd, believe me, I understand.

But before you post a comment that dehumanizes a group of people based on their race, I ask that you remember the context of how we got to this point in America, and the pain that others are still feeling.

The way through stuff like this is together, not divided.

— Mike Chitwood is Volusia County sheriff, first elected in 2016. This commentary was originally posted on his Facebook page Monday morning, and is reprinted with permission.