Police Chief Scott Cunningham has formed a committee of Police Department personnel to review the findings and recommendations of the Silk Plant Forest Citizens Review Committee and determine whether the Silk Plant Forest case should be reopened. Cunningham will lead the committee.
"I am forming this temporary review committee to respond to the recommendations made by the committee, to answer concerns and issues raised by the committee, to review the actions of the Winston-Salem Police Department and its personnel during the investigation of the case, and to provide information back to the Winston-Salem City Council, the city manager, and the community at large," Cunningham said.
Specifically, the internal police committee will:
- consider the recommendations contained within the report, and the Police Department’s response to them;
- consider the concerns voiced, and issues raised, by the report;
- review the actions of the Police Department and its personnel during the investigation of the Silk Plant Forest case;
- consider the Silk Plant Forest committee’s recommendations regarding enhancements to procedures, policies, and/or practices of the Winston-Salem Police Department;
- make a recommendation relative to the status of the case, and specifically, whether the case should be re-opened; and
- prepare and disseminate a report that outlines these and any other relevant issues or concerns involving this case.
None of the internal committee members worked on the original investigation, Cunningham said. However, members may have varying degrees of familiarity with the case and the Silk Plant Forest committee process because of their positions within the department.
The internal committee will review the Silk Plant Forest committee’s 104-page report as well as exhibits, letters, transcripts, and other items, which amounts to another several thousand pages of material. "This committee will make a thorough review of the report and all its related materials to ensure that it responds fully to all the recommendations and concerns raised by the Silk Plant Forest Citizens Review Committee," Cunningham said.
"The internal committee will work diligently on this matter, but it will take some unknown amount of time to complete a thorough review of the issues," Cunningham said. "When the committee concludes its review it will issue a written report containing its findings. However, should the committee call for adjustments in police policies, procedures and practices, we will consider implementing those adjustments without waiting for the committee’s final report."
The internal committee’s written report will be delivered to the City Manager’s Office for review, after which it will be presented to the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.
The City Council appointed the Silk Plant Forest Citizens Review Committee in October 2007 to review the beating in December 1995 at the Silk Plant Forest store on Silas Creek Parkway that left Jill Marker with grave and permanent injuries. Kalvin M. Smith was convicted in December 1997 but maintains his innocence, and his conviction remains controversial within the Winston-Salem community.
The final report of the Silk Plant Forest Citizens Review Committee was released July 24 and is posted online.