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Chitwood v. NAACP

He thrives on his nickname—“Chipmunk”

On Oct. 5, Mike Chitwood, the Daytona Beach police chief with a thing for publicly demeaning suspects, was almost in baby-kissing mode on the front page of the local paper. He was pictured on his bike, his serrated smile targeting a child playing with the chief’s gizmos and a lavish, flattering story wrapping around Chitwood’s supposed community glow. “ He's more like the favorite uncle who's come for a visit than the city's chief of police on patrol,” The News-Journal’s Julie Murphy wrote. “The children tug at his clothing and saddlebags -- even take his flashlight and handcuffs off his belt -- as they fire off questions without waiting for the answers.”

Two days later, different story. The NAACP is asking the FBI to investigate Chitwood over what it calls his “inflammatory” conduct during an incident at Bethune Cookman College the week before. (Sprinklers went off accidentally in a dorm, two dorm managers got into an argument with a student, the argument escalated, other students got involved, some property was damaged. What happened in the community at large was more damaging: talk radio, newspaper comment sections and street talk made a brawl of the situation, at times with unveiled bigotry. The police chief, who’s not known as a conciliator, contributed firestarters of his own regarding the college’s collaboration in the investigation. Example: “Something stinks and it isn't rotten fish.”

First Reads: Oct. 7

In his letter to the Department of Justice, Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Florida NAACP, charged that “[t]he Police Department’s actions include the repeated issuance of inflammatory and racially tinged statements, the issuance of a sham subpoena, and a false statement to the media alleging a cover-up.” Chitwood flipped the race card back in the NAACP’s face: “ If they don't like my words, they should watch the videos of what happened," he was quoted as saying. "I've had a tremendous relationship with B-CU and I'm disappointed we're going to the racial baiting. They're calling it racial because I'm doing my job."

Media baiting, of course, isn’t in a police chief’s job description. Chitwood wrote it into his own.

Read the full NAACP letter.

 
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