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Report on King Day events agitates council members

Some City Council members think city administrators have been withholding details about law enforcement problems during the recent Martin Luther King Jr. Day festivities.

At least some of those details were found in a report that police Chief Goliath Davis wrote this week at the request of council member Kathleen Ford.

Twelve people were arrested during the Jan. 17 festival and parade, two officers suffered minor injuries, two police cruisers were damaged by thrown debris and 213 police officers racked up about $40,000 in overtime pay.

The most common charge during the holiday was disorderly conduct, for which seven people were arrested. Two obstruction charges were filed. One person each was charged with simple battery, cocaine possession, disorderly intoxication and aggravated assault.

Of the two officers injured, one suffered a strained right knee while the other sustained a human bite on his right thumb.

Damage to one of the cars was too minor to repair, the other had its front windshield replaced for about $260.

"To me, there are some huge safety and security issues that continue to go unaddressed," Ford said as council members reviewed the report during their regular meeting Thursday.

Initial news accounts made the crowd problems sound like "kids will be kids," said council Chairwoman Bea Griswold. "But this report indicates that there was much more. Somebody just doesn't want us to know, and I don't know why."

In reply, City Administrator Tish Elston said: "I don't want to either trivialize this or blow it out of proportion."

Elston recalled how the city's annual Fourth of July waterfront festivities had been getting out of control several years ago. A handful of changes, including a different starting time for the celebration, took care of many of the problems.

Perhaps some changes could be considered for the King Day celebration, she said.

Members of the council unanimously agreed to send the report to all three of the council's subcommittees for further review.