Betty Jean Grant Asks for Ban on the Word "Negro"

LOCKPORT, NY - We first told you Wednesday on Twitter that the Lockport Police Department has been using terms to describe black suspectsthat can be offensive to many people.

Since our report aired, police say they're taking steps to remove these terms from their database.

There's also an effort, already underway, to make sure the offensive language doesn't exist anywhere in agencies that rely on taxpayer dollars.

For years, some officers at the Lockport Police Department were using the terms "dark negro" and "light negro" to describe black suspects in their database. These are outdated terms that are usually only used for historical purposes. We obtained one Lockport Police mug shot that lists a male suspect as a "dark negro."

Many black leaders we talked to find the term offensive.

"I think what really bothered me more was using the term dark because to me that is saying that there's a discrimination there -- there's making a difference between a dark-skinned and a light-skinned that is something that we have struggled with for a long, long time in this country," said Eva M. Doyle, a local author and columnist.

Yesterday, we spoke to Lockport's Police Chief Larry Eggert, who told us no one at the department thought the terms were offensive. Eggert realized that the terms were insulting and says officers will undergo diversity training to learn why the terms are unacceptable and why they'll be removed from their database.

Currently, the Erie County Legislature is in recess. But, when legislators reconvene in September, Legislator Betty Jean Grant plans to take up the cause.

"What I can do is write a resolution and send it to the Niagara County Legislature, ask them to condemn this kind of behavior this kind of word that's being used," she said.

Grant plans to put forward the same resolution before the Erie County Legislature for a vote -- and she doesn't plan to stop there.

"I can memorialize the state and make it a law that any police department with the protection of people of citizens, who are arrested and those who are not -- to not use demeaning and offensive words in their arrest description," Grant said.

This would require state lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly passing a bill to this effect. In addition to police departments, the resolution would apply to any agency that relies on taxpayer dollars.

Legislator Dennis Virtuoso, a Democrat, is the minority leader of the Niagara County legislature.

"I think we all agree that that term is outdated and that African American is more of the correct term nowadays to use," Virtuoso said.

We reached out to all members of the Republican caucus within the Niagara County Legislature. Republican Legislator Clyde Burmaster tells 2 On Your Side's Jeff Preval by phone that the Republican Caucus would want to see the full resolution before voting on it, but that ideally Democrats and Republicans could both agree on this effort.


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