South Precinct’s good works destroyed by bitter critic

The South Precinct Community Outreach Group helped residents clean up Ember Drive on Nov. 14. It plans to help residents find jobs and permanent places to live.

Faye Coffield

Faye Coffield

I am a founding member of the South Precinct Community Outreach Group that was headed by Marjorie Clay and written about in CrossRoadsNews' July 14 story “South Precinct Maj. Johnson disciplined for improper oversight.”

It is my opinion the story should have been about how Brenda Pace destroyed one of the most effective community-based programs in South DeKalb through her pettiness and desire to dictate the agenda of a group she was not an active member of.

I also agree with Mrs. Clay that there appears to have been a hidden agenda to prevent Major K.D. Johnson from becoming Deputy Chief, and destroy his reputation and that of our program.

Ironically, the vacant Deputy Chief position is now filled by then-Maj. Cornelius Yarbro, who is now Maj. Johnson’s immediate supervisor.

It is further my opinion that Brenda Pace has continued her attempts to destroy the reputation of Mrs. Clay, Maj. Johnson and our group through her continued spreading of misleading statements throughout the community and to the press.

Brenda Pace wrote a $50 check to Green Pastures Church for a spring break camp that was being held there. This camp was funded through a $2,000 privately funded grant which included a paid staffer. Several of the funding individuals have stated in writing they had no problems with the manner in which the money was used. They have also spoken highly of and in defense of Mrs. Clay and Maj. Johnson.

Brenda Pace does not state that she became involved in a personal dispute with Mrs.Clay over a week later and demanded her $50 donation back. Her uncashed check was returned to her.

Not satisfied she began, again in my opinion, a vindictive campaign against Mrs. Clay, Maj. Johnson and our group.

It is my understanding that the only thing Maj. Johnson did was, after speaking with then Public Safety Director Dr. Cedric Alexander, write a letter explaining the camp to the four designated donors who he also knew personally. Our previous activities were no secret and many had been attended by elected officials and police command staff – none of whom raised any questions about us. These activities were also often covered in the press.

Our group is a multiracial eclectic group made up of everyone from retired doctors to motel residents. We partner with individuals, businesses, churches and organizations in South DeKalb. Our sole purpose was to improve the lives of low-income South DeKalb residents, especially young people. And we are serious about it and work hard at it. All of our meetings are open to the public.

Here is a partial list of what we were able to accomplish in the approximately 18 months prior to the 2017 spring break camp:

n We conducted two cleanup efforts on Ember Drive, at that time one of the most dangerous and dirty streets in South DeKalb. One of our members met the school bus on Ember Drive daily and handed out sandwiches to children.

n We sponsored a cookout for citizens and motel residents on Ember Drive. All leftover food was given to residents.

n We conducted a job fair with jobs starting at $12-$20 an hour; some left with jobs and others were later hired.

n We helped former inmates find jobs at our job fairs.

n At Thanksgiving we provided, at no charge to the county, a full breakfast for South Precinct officers and others working the overnight shift.

n We also provided a full luncheon for the rest of the officers at the South Precinct.

n Additionally, we provided over 500 Thanksgiving turkeys to families living in the South DeKalb Precinct.

n We also provided a community Thanksgiving Day meal at a local church for all in the community and served over 250.

n At Christmas, working with staff in various South DeKalb schools, families were pre-selected and received gifts and new clothing. Among these gifts were at least two new bicycles. Any toys that were left over were given to officers to pass out during the coming days.

n We also sponsored a Christmas community luncheon at the precinct. This luncheon was attended not only by the community and officers but also elected officials and the some of the Command Staff of DeKalb Police Department.

n Again at Christmas we again provided over 500 turkeys to community residents.

n We arranged over 20 free trips to the movies, including popcorn and a drink, for youths.

n We provided similar free trips to the movies for seniors.

n Several of the men in our group worked with local middle and high schools to mentor youth about staying in school and out of trouble.

n We hosted community events which brought citizens together with resources to improve their lives.

n Most importantly we developed, filled and maintained a free library in the lobby of the South Precinct where any child or adult could come and, without any question, take a book. It is my understanding this is the only library of this type at any police precinct in the United States. In fact we often had visitors from neighboring police agencies attend our meetings to observe how we did what we did. 

If Brenda Pace had concerns about how her $50 was to be used then she should have asked. Instead it appears she let her personal vendettas destroy a highly effective community-based program.

Faye Coffield is a longtime activist in South DeKalb. She lives in Lithonia.