Asheville’s Copwatch rolls out

Last November, Citizens Awareness Asheville, an organization of community activists concerned about purported excesses and misconduct by local law enforcement, announced the formation of a “Copwatch” program.

Such programs, active in cities including Los Angeles, Berkeley, Houston and New Orleans, involve volunteers going around neighborhoods on foot patrols, monitoring the activities of the police.

Just more than half a year later, the program is up and running with its first group of volunteers and its hotline operational, Copwatch organizer David Ireland tells Xpress.

“We’ve got 15 volunteers, with a core group of about eight,” he says. “We’ve been going out on foot patrols [and] we hope to expand that soon with people patrolling their own neighborhoods. That’s really the way this works best.”

About a month ago, Ireland says, members of established Copwatch groups came to Asheville to help train the volunteers and showed them the movie These Streets are Watching, which explores the groups’ purpose and activities.

Right now, most of the patrols have focused on “the projects,” Ireland says, such as Pisgah View Apartments and Lee-Walker Heights. “We haven’t gotten out to Shiloh yet, but we will soon,” he adds.

So far, the volunteers have mostly been telling the people they encounter about Copwatch, informing them about their rights under the law and showing them how to fill out incident reports. The hotline also handles individual complaints.

“In Pisgah View recently, one young woman told us about some problems she’d had [with the police] and filled out an incident report right there on her doorstep,” Ireland reports.

He’s optimistic about the program’s future, he says. “I think it’s working. We’re really getting the word out to people in the projects that they don’t have to be compliant to every little thing the police tell them to do. They don’t have to just let them search their backpacks or their pockets without a warrant.”

Asheville Police Chief Bill Hogan has said that he doesn’t have a problem with Copwatch groups, saying back in November “anyone’s free to videotape anything.”

Copwatch will make a presentation as part of a poetry slam at Pisgah View on Sunday, June 1.

Asheville’s Copwatch can be contacted at 398-4817.


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28 thoughts on “Asheville’s Copwatch rolls out

  1. lokel

    Hogan says “anyone’s free to videotape anything.”

    Remember when those folks demonstrated at the Bank of America downtown …. well, the APD did confiscate a video camera on that occasion.

    When it was returned, (the person filming was arrested), the camera was blank!

    So I beg to differ.

  2. We do NOT need people to monitor the activity of the police, we need more people to monitor the activity of the CRIMINALS…. and TELL the police!

    • Mark

      Hold up are you for real? Explain this to me then. How come the good people of any town or city would feel that way to begin with. We are in a Police State and a lot of these cops are out of control. All these people that complain about their law enforcement can’t be wrong. Lets take another look, Why do police need to have tanks, grenade/canister launchers, semi-automatic weapons, shotguns, tasers, clubs and pepper spray just to name a few. How is that law enforcement? Why do police need that stuff to handle general public? If we as citizens are that bad then put the damn military in the cities not cops. Police=Law Enforcement not militants.

  3. Joe Cullen

    I for one am in favor of the COP WATCH in asheville. After living in public housing in your once good city, I back this Idea! I was assaulted and riddiculed many times by the APD between 02′ and 04′, the first time I was assualted was by the capt. kicking my cane out from me causing me to fall and bruise knees and arm after I called the police about a threat of non residence of the Altamont apt. building coming back into the building to LIGHT IT UP. It doesn’t take a street thug to know that means a gun fight. But the arresting officers negleted to hear ME, the one who called them into the building to begin with!Instead arresting my neighbors for public drunkness(they were in their apt. with the door open)they were cuffed behind there backs and sitting in front of the elevator on the floor, I was trying to argue the situation with the officers,I standing in front of my apt.,Which was 20 ft. away from any of them when I was asked to go inside and shut the door, Still trying to right the situation and tell officers these aren’t the perpitrators I had called 911 about,The officer walks over to me and says your going to jail too ya punk! kicks my cane out from under me. Now with that said I want the readers to understand that I am a disabled person, I want to know what kind of threat this 180 lbs. guy that can’t really walk is to THREE supposed fully trained officers! The city and APD should be ashamed of their somewhat crooked law enforcers.This was just ONE incident, That time I was charged for resisting a public officer. There are more,But I’m sure most folks get the picture of the harassment I had to put up with. I Wish this group the best of luck!

  4. Dionysis

    “We do NOT need people to monitor the activity of the police, we need more people to monitor the activity of the CRIMINALS…. and TELL the police!

    With all due respect, the police are paid by taxpayers to perform a job. They are subservient to the citizens who sanction them. Just as any employer has a right to monitor their employees, citizens have the right of oversight. Police deserve leeway, but they have no inherent right to behave in any way they wish simply because they have a badge.
    And out of curiosity, do you frequently ‘monitor’ criminal activity yourself?

  5. Whenever I see or suspect criminal activity, I call law enforcement, yes. We all should, it’s simple civic duty.

    As to oversight, our elected officials are delegated (and do) perform that function.

  6. david

    “As to oversight, our elected officials are delegated (and do) perform that function.”

    Mr. Roberts,

    Although I’m sure your life experience has taught you to believe that things are that simple, that black and white, I assure you, there are many of us who know first hand that this is neither a simple or perfect world. Police do ‘bad’ things, at times, and are very often not punished for them. If Copwatch can begin to provide even a small bit of accountability for the police in regards to the public, then I do not see how anyone could have a problem with the organization.

    It’s just great that you support the police. We certainly do need honest ones in our society. But unless you have actually experienced, first hand, the failings of a criminal justice system that encourages a blind-eye towards the infractions of it’s law enforcement officers, then I fail to understand how you can criticize this group of active citizens for their community-building efforts.

  7. David, I criticize the copwatch people because they are on the wrong side. If you go out to make the police you’re enemy, as they are doing, they are no better than other lawbreakers.

    It is the responsibility of our elected officials to perform oversight. If they don’t do the job, we elect new ones that will. But letting untrained idiots interfere with law enforcement offices, 99% of which are honest, dedicated, hardworking, and already OVER-worked is simply making the problem worse. I do not want my taxpayer money wasted by extra burdens on the police or sheriff’s deputies.

  8. Dionysis

    “letting untrained idiots interfere with law enforcement offices, 99% of which are honest, dedicated, hardworking…”

    Again, with respect, these opinions are interesting. Can you embellish? Specifically, (1) where does one obtain ‘training’ to provide effective oversight, since that is a criticism; (2) why do you think the citizens whose tax dollars pay for these municipal services are “idiots?”; (3) what evidence can you provide to demonstrate that such citizen oversight groups have ‘interfered’ with legitimate police actions? (4) what statistics can you provide to substantiate the observation that “99% are honest…” etc? That may be correct, but it would be interesting to see the source.

    Thank you.

  9. no, you’re looking at it wrong… let’s take the Asheville Police Department as an example… here is their stated mission (from”

    “The City of Asheville Police Department dedicated to providing public safety and maintaining order; enforcing the laws of North Carolina, upholding the United States Constitution and enhancing national security. The City of Asheville is committed to supporting a safe city with safe neighborhoods.”

    To accomplish that mission, they have only 241 sworn and unsworn officers in a city of some 70,000 people. They PERFORM this mission with:

    “Honesty, compassion, trust, and accountability. Police officers have the courage to do what is morally, ethically, and legally right regardless of risk” while having the goal of treating “everyone impartially without favoritism or bias.”

    And they do it well.

    THAT is the solution — if you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

    If you are dissatisfied (and you should not be, Asheville has effective and fair policing) contact your elected representative with police oversight responsibility (City Council for the police, County Commissioners for the Sheriff’s Department).

    But WHATEVER you do, try to be a little more grateful we have these fine professionals risking their life daily on our behalf. Because whatever a very few might have done, the vast majority of police and deputies put it on the line for YOU.

  10. Dionysis

    “If you are dissatisfied…”
    “try to be a little more grateful”

    There was no claim of dissatisfaction or of being ungrateful.

    I have already read their ‘mission statement’. Too bad you failed to try and answer the questions. Evidently, asking them constitutes being “part of the problem.”

    Over and out.

  11. no, it’s simply that I feel no compulsion to justify the obvious. … too many folk on this board fail to do any original research on their own. … and slept through high school civics to boot.

  12. Dionysis

    “I feel no compulsion to justify the obvious”

    If the items you enumerated were obvious, it would be easy to cite the factual basis.

    “slept through high school civics to boot.

    What do you expect from “idiots?”

    This reminds me of the recent exchange on CNN with Lou Dobbs and a Media Matters reporter. Dobbs keeps railing about a ‘superhighway’ designed to destroy American sovereignty by allowing unfettered transit from Mexico to Canada. When asked point blank “where is the proof”, Dobbs stuttered “it’s right in front of you” and then stammered “I don’t have time for this” and ignored the question.

    But opinions don’t really require proof.

  13. tatuaje

    Dionysis, as I pointed out in an earlier post on another thread, Ralph has ZERO debating skills. Like travelah, he NEVER answers any legitimate question to his, obviously, narrow-minded and thoughtless views. All he has ever done, and as far as I can surmise, will ever do, is parrot the “aw shucks ah’m just a good ole boy & do whatever the powers-that-be tell me to do” line….he’s just a weak flamer…

  14. Dionysis

    “Lou Dobbs? I feel even less compulsion now.”

    Whatever. One reason is as good as another.

  15. tatuaje

    debate |di?b?t|
    a formal discussion on a particular topic in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward.
    • an argument about a particular subject, esp. one in which many people are involved : the national debate on abortion | there has been much debate about prices.

    Granted this isn’t a public meeting, but a public forum seems to be close enough…You have put forth an opposing argument and Dionysis has questioned your views & assumptions. And as always, instead of putting forth ANY facts to support your opinions you simply sidestep the issue and lob some cute folkism to obscure the fact that you really have NO basis for your viewpoint.

    Sure, you’re entitled to toss your opinion out into the world at large with no logical reasoning to back it up, but people will quickly lose respect for ANY opinion you have in the future. I can start posting how I am of the opinion that our current president is in fact a reptilian alien sent to destroy our world, but without any logical reasoning to back it up I would merely come across as a crackpot and be promptly ignored.

    Simply put, Ralph, I am merely challenging you to step up your game a notch. You obviously possess an inherent way with words and a rich catalogue of life experiences that could raise the level of debate….put ’em to use!

  16. Dionysis

    Nice summation of the situation, tatuaje. A very good post. Oh, and (believe it or not), there is a British writer named David Ickes that actually has written that Bush (and others) are in fact reptilian aliens!

  17. tatuaje, yes I do have an inherent way with words and rich life experiences… that’s a nice complement — thank you.

    on the otherhand, I feel no compulsion to join this particular debate but, yes, enjoy tossing out an opinion now and again. … as a professional, I save my really passionate stuff for when I’m being paid. ;-)

    however, I DO agree with David Ickes as mentioned by Dionysis. It IS obvious that Bush and other top politicians of both parties are all reptilian aliens. That’s quite obvious.

  18. caleb

    I wonder why my response to these comments does
    not appear basis reporing maybe?

  19. greywolf

    Everyones views are interesting. However , living in Asheville for only a short time , I have seen first hand how the local police get to pick and choose battles. And it seems they are only choosing battles that have nothing to do with the law. Someone explain to me why the Chief gets to decide that instead of putting focus and effort on cleaning up the cities drug and violence issues he decides to send an entire squad to a business that he has a personal issue with. During Belle Chere a young man was being beaten and kicked by 5 other guys while 10 officers not more than 20 feet away stood by and did nothing. While citizens have to step in to stop these crimes. GOOD JOB APD!!!!! I feel much safer knowing you will do nothing to protect me in the streets. Let’s just forget about the job you are supposed to do and focus on making this city exactly what the Chief wants. Let’s close every business he hates. Then we can watch asheville decay right along side of him. DO YOUR DAMN JOB!!!! Every business , every household at some time will be complained about by someone. Unless it’s truly an illegal matter , get over yourself. We all know that there are uptight , better than you , i crap rose petal morons in asheville. They call the cops for everything. The wind blows west instead of east , call the cops. Someone drove by my house playing music , call the cops. Someone revved an engine , call the cops. If it’s someone the Chief hates , cops are all over it. And how does the Chief justify blaming one establishment for a shooting in another unrelated establishment. Chief… are not god. You don’t get to use the department and my tax money for your personal vendettas. Act like an officer or pick another line of work.

  20. robbie price

    Ihave been targeted by law enforcement(remember they seem to have nothing to lose,they’re harassing on my dime) since 2004 when I pissed off the local sheriff for speaking my mind! I think most of these thugs should be put under the jail! My most recent encounter,I was attacked and for 8-12 minutes while in cuffs,5 cops tasered me in the face,chocked me,kicked me,AND TO JUSTIFY I WAS CHARGED WITH DISORDERLY CONDUCT,RESISTING ARREST,COMMUNICATING THREATS(ALL FOR TELLING COP HE WAS NOT THE LAW,ONLY LAW ENFORCEMENT,AND DON’T TALK TO ME LIKE I AM A NO-BODY!!

  21. All public officials are public servants by definition. They are our servants, servants of the people and any or all power they have we have inherent within us because all government is derived from the people. Officers must be held accountable for their indictable offenses just as any other man or woman, whether they are a cop or not. And it’s our duty and the people to make sure these officers are abiding by the law. Recently, I was assaulted, battered, criminally threatened, victim of larceny, tortured, victim of fraud & forgery, abducted, unlawfully arrested(false arrest), discrimination, and involuntary servitude under coercion and duress by a corrupt officer by the name of J.L Crabb (Jay L. Crabb) Badge # 1726 for not wearing helmet on my moped, which I bought the night before the morning the officer abused his authority against me, while i was on my way to purchase a helmet! I have a civil lawsuit against this officer and I plan on putting him out of duty FOREVER. This man deleted my recording of his indictable offenses from my iPhone after he bound my hands and feet. I did not act violently or with ANY attitude to this officer. Never, in any state I have lived , has any peace officer acted so malevolently toward me. Let justice prevail.

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