Tensions erupt between commissioners and sheriff

After eight additional body camera videos related to the beating of Asheville resident Johnnie Rush by former Asheville Police Officer Chris Hickman were released on April 2, three Democrat County Commissioners, Al Whitesides, Ellen Frost and Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, released a joint statement calling for measures including reviewing use-of-force policies; increasing funding for use-of-force and bias training; revamping body cam footage retention guidelines; providing funding for a “Use-of-Force Response Team”; creating a county level human rights commission; and developing additional protocols in conjunction with the district attorney’s office.

Sheriff Van Duncan released a “disheartened” response to the statement, criticizing it for insulting a well-functioning department and “applying what they see as the solution to agencies and officers who had absolutely nothing to do with the Johnny Rush incident,” and “taking advantage of this situation to drive a very anti-law enforcement agenda.”

Duncan later tempered his tone somewhat when he clarified his statement with another that underlined his opposition to “the overreaching oversight proposals that have been made because it usurps the authority of existing boards and elected officials to do the jobs that their citizens elected them to do,” but also left room to support some of the proposals.

The factional division could play into the politics of the coming democratic primary in which Duncan’s choice of successor, Randy Smart, faces four opponents.


About Able Allen
Able studied political science and history at Warren Wilson College. He enjoys travel, dance, games, theater, blacksmithing and the great outdoors. Follow me @AbleLAllen

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