Riverdale council takes action

By Billy Corriher

The Riverdale City Council took action Tuesday night after receiving a report from the Department of Justice on race relations in the city police department.

The council approved City Manager Billy Beckett's suggestion to hire trainers in diversity and speakers for motivation and communication skills to address any problems with race relations in the department.

Beckett pointed to the positive results of the report, which concluded that city employees were generally content, and any problems with race relations are not unique to Riverdale.

While the report mentions problems with race relations, it says the tension is a result of historical factors, poor management methods and the status of race relations in the entire community.

Beckett's recommendations were based on the report's list of recommendations, and the council agreed to study Beckett's other suggestion, using a group for consolidating and addressing all the broad issues in the report.

Beckett said the city has already implemented some programs for improving race relations and the department's standing with the community.

"We have made extraordinary efforts," he said, mentioning the city's effort to investigate problems with race relations.

"The Department of Justice did not investigate the city of Riverdale," he said, "We asked them to come in."

Councilman Rick Scoggins said that after weeks of feuding between council members and Mayor Phaedra Graham, he was ready to move on with the report and other city business.

"We do have problems," he said. "But strides to move the city forward have been taken."

Scoggins said the mayor has misrepresented the council in the media and remains uncommunicative with council members.

Councilman Kenny Ruffin echoed Scoggins' concerns and criticized Graham for not having read the report thoroughly before the meeting.

"That's part of the problem," he said. "We are not taking care of the business of the city."

Graham, who was mostly quiet at the meeting, said she thought the council would discuss the report at its regularly scheduled meeting next Monday, instead of at the meeting called Tuesday.

But Scoggins said Graham and the council need to work out their problems so they can concentrate on the needs of the city. "If we keep looking back, how can we move forward?" he said.