City Council calls meeting to discuss Baccus incident
By Bobby Bryant
Darlington City Council has scheduled a special called meeting July 21 to discuss an incident in which councilwoman Sheila Baccus is reported to have used racially charged language during an encounter with a city police officer.
Council was to hold the meeting at 6 p.m. at Harmon Baldwin Gym so more people can attend despite “social distancing” rules. Council’s regular meeting place at City Hall can accommodate few spectators after the benches are marked off to allow 6-foot “zones” around every person.
Council was expected to immediately go into executive session to discuss what the agenda calls “a Police Department, City Council and personnel matter.” After leaving executive session, the city said, council may or may not have a vote.
City officials have been receiving huge numbers of calls and social-media comments on the incident leading to this meeting.
The incident took place June 17 when a white city police officer left a parking ticket on the windshield of an SUV belonging to African-American City Council member Baccus. The officer said the vehicle was parked on the wrong side of the road on Oak Street.
According to an incident report written by the officer, Baccus approached and asked what was happening. Another woman, who the officer said he had warned before about the same problem, was with Baccus.
Baccus told the officer, according to the incident report, “Why are you harassing us? You don’t have anything better to do than write parking tickets?”
The incident report says the officer told Baccus that his job was writing tickets. He suggested that she contact Darlington Police Chief Kelvin Washington if she felt there was a problem with his actions.
According to the incident report, Baccus then made a phone call, spoke briefly, ended the call and said, “The chief said he will take care of this ticket.”
At that point, according to the incident report, Baccus told the officer: “Take your white self back to the white neighborhood. …You’re probably the kind that would shoot us in the back.”
The officer made no comment, the report says.
Washington has told local news media, “The officer handled this interaction with Councilwoman Baccus with the highest level of professionalism and he has my complete support. He did nothing wrong and said nothing wrong.” The police chief said the ticket was paid.
Baccus has declined to comment on the incident.
The officer’s body-cam was recording during the incident. Officials so far have declined to release the video, but some who have seen the video say it matches the officer’s report.
The incident report on the officer’s exchange with Baccus first surfaced on the Facebook page of Anna DeWitt, a local-government watchdog who routinely records videos of City Council meetings and posts them on Facebook.