APD shares internal restructuring process

AT THE READY: Law enforcement officers stand outside the Asheville police station during demonstrations on June 3. In the months since, the Asheville Police Department has restructured internally. Photo by Virginia Daffron

The Asheville Police Department has followed through with a number of promises Chief David Zack made in June. But the one demand residents and activists repeatedly called for — that the city divest from the APD and invest resources in Asheville’s Black community — has not been heard, some community members say. 

At Asheville City Council’s meeting of Dec. 8, City Manager Debra Campbell and Zack each gave an update on their respective 30/60/90-day work plans to address racial justice and economic inclusion initiatives. City leadership created these work plans after the intergenerational coalition Black AVL Demands repeatedly requested citywide action following the summer’s racial justice protests, Campbell explained. 

Instead of reducing the APD budget by 50% as the group demanded, Campbell opted to reassign several positions previously under the APD to other city departments in September, resulting in a 2.5% cut in funding. As of Dec. 8, six animal and park warden positions had been moved to the Development Services and Parks and Recreation departments, Campbell said, and a new “neighborhood services specialist” position has been posted. 

The city is also forming a new team to focus on data transparency, she noted. City recruiters are looking for a performance analyst and a data communication specialist to work with the Information Technology Services Department. 

Internally, the APD has undergone a restructuring first outlined in June, Zack said. A new Community Engagement Division launched in October to “quickly and effectively respond to neighborhood and quality-of-life issues,” Zack said. The team is composed of community resource, public housing and school resource officers; in November, the new unit responded to 23 neighborhood issues and 34 complaints regarding homeless camps, he added. 

The department’s Drug Suppression Unit was eliminated as officers shifted their focus from low-level drug offenses to violent crime, Zack continued, and an anonymous tip line is now up and running. 

Three budget amendments directing $152,604 to the APD were discussed separately from the rest of Council’s consent agenda at the request of new member Kim Roney, including two grant applications to the U.S. Department of Justice to fund the purchase of bulletproof vests and rifles. Consideration of a $20,000 private donation to fund tactical deescalation training was also heard separately. 

Adopting the amendments would not add funding to the APD budget, Campbell clarified after a lengthy discussion that included many comments from members of the public. Budget amendments and grants must come before Council for authorization, she explained, but the projected grant awards had already been factored into the department’s 2020-21 budget.

Community members calling into the virtual meeting expressed frustration that funding for additional weaponry was on the table. “Throwing more money at an already militarized police force for more weapons, especially long-range rifles, only continues to reinforce police officer’s incorrect perception that their lives are constantly in danger and they need to kill us before they are killed themselves,” said Rebekah Morrisson

“Putting rifles in the hands of cops doesn’t do any good for our community,” echoed Chloe Moore, who identified as a Black farmer in Asheville. “Can the rifles feed people? No. Can they provide a healthy education for people in our community? No. Can they give us stable housing to help people avoid violent situations? No. Can they murder one of our neighbors? Yes.” 

New rifles purchased with the DOJ grant will replace “unserviceable and malfunctioning” weapons currently in APD’s arsenal, Zack noted. “In this city, we’ve had 44 people shot, we’ve responded to more than 600 calls of gun discharges in this city alone and we’ve had 11 people murdered. Unfortunately, we need to have the tools that we need to protect the public,” he said. 

The budget amendments ultimately passed, despite Roney’s opposition to all three. New member Sage Turner joined Roney in voting against the rifle amendment.

Budget discussions will resume later this winter as city departments begin developing requests for the 2021-22 operating budget. Independent facilitators Shemekka Ebony Coleman of #IAmBrilliant and Christine Edwards and Glenn Thomas of Amplify Charlotte are expected to return to lead discussions surrounding public safety, Campbell said.

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About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

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15 thoughts on “APD shares internal restructuring process

  1. Michael Hopping

    Thank you, Kim Roney and Sage Turner for actually walking the walk!

    • indy499

      Perhaps we could have you hop over to the next shots fired call that comes in and you can carry the old, now to be replaced unserviceable rifles? Be usre to tell us how you did.

      • Michael Hopping

        We do not need a domestic version of the Army patrolling our streets. Police used to be understood as guardians of communities, not a warrior class organized around dominating engagements with overwhelming shows of force. Now the communities police “serve” are otherized, potential threats rather than friends and neighbors that could occasionally use a little help in keeping the peace.

    • Roger

      It is premature to make decisions about public safety and police reform as a matter of policy, particularly since the issues have been made into political weapons against citizens who voice concern, not only for Black Lives Matter issues, but for the safety of all citizens confronted by criminal elements within our urban centers that have hijacked the movement for purposes unrelated to police departments and the safety concerns of the citizens at large. What predominately cries out for reform is a two-party system that has become toxic and a complete disaster, such that it threatens our democratic society, itself. “It’s driving us apart instead of bringing us together,” argues Lee Drutman, author of “Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America.” The two-party warfare has destroyed a sense of fairness and legitimacy upon which democracy depends, the author argues. Republicans and Democrats treat each other as enemies. “And the more the conflict escalates, the shakier our democracy feels,” wrote the publisher. Given the larger concern about such reform, it is conceivable that local politicians have betrayed The People by stoking the flames of such conflict directly entangled with two-party corruption and the tendency to weaponize politics for political gains. The Mayor, the Governor, and political party elites have committed injustices against the entire population, not just communities of color, by falsely claiming their opponents to be racists and bigots, without cause to do so. This two-party corruption has got to end, and made real by the voices of citizens who no longer identify as democrat or republican. It is too bad that the new council member has chosen to politicize a matter that requires input from the entire community, and not from politicians or hyper-partisan members of one party or the other; or from those who want to enflame the issues for publicity and political gain.

      • NFB

        The new council member in question, Kim Roney, is not a member of either of the two major parties, but an independent.

        In any case, the two party system we have is a direct result of our winner take all system. vote more than

        • Michael Hopping

          I very much agree that our entrenched two-party system is a significant problem. Pragmatic voters rarely have safe opportunities to vote for a third party (knowing that their preferred candidate can’t win) out of concern that the greater of two evils might outpoll the lesser. See the results of progressives voting for Ralph Nader or Jill Stein. It seems to me that the best way to begin breaking the two-party duopoly is Ranked-choice Voting. https://time.com/5718941/ranked-choice-voting/ This allows smaller parties to develop and better test their messages on Election Day. Surprisingly (not) Ranked-choice Voting hasn’t gained much popularity in either Republican or Democratic circles.

          • Roger

            What you draw attention to as the best way to begin breaking the two-party duopoly [Rank-Choice Voting) is what Lee Drutmann recommends. The points you highlight in your comment are succinct and rational. From my view, the Left and the Right are supported by billionaires and a Media thirsty for drama; and those of us in the middle, who would like The People to choose a third, more central path forward, are completely ignored or vilified. Donald Trump is actually not the cause of what he is blamed for, but a symptom of a drift in American politics that is out-of-balance, just like elements in the present forensic analysis of the Dominion ballot machines and the tabulations that give rise to the mistrust a majority of those polled have expressed. That drift in question is a dangerous one.

  2. Mike R.

    Gun violence is endemic in our society. Cops have to deal with this every day.
    Put yourself in their shoes. Call on shots fired. Think about it.
    Anybody that displays a gun, uses a gun in a crime or discharges a gun illegally in our society should get a minimum of 10 years in prison. Willing to back that? Didn’t think so. Oh, the poor (fill in the blank) had a troubled upbringing.
    Get gun violence under control in a serious way and all of this jibber jabber will end.

    • Michael Hopping

      I look forward to your advocacy for significant and widespread gun control. Welcome to the team! And perhaps we could also incentivize officers not to shoot first and ask questions later. I’m thinking of moves such as reducing police impunity from prosecution for excessive use of force, increased penalties for failure to document interactions with a body cam, increased public transparency for viewing that footage in the event of disputed events, transferring liability for paying out on wrongful death suits from taxpayers to law enforcement agency budgets, stuff like that.

      • Mike R.

        Michael,
        You don’t get my message. Cops have every right to shoot first and ask questions later in this environment. They have to make split second decisions on THEIR life. And we have so many people that just don’t get that and want to make a statement and refuse to do what the cop directs or worse. Again, put yourself in the position of a cop today making maybe $60K/year at best. And lots of gun violence and lots of black gun violence. In almost every situation where suspects have been killed, the suspect did NOT follow directions of the police. Really quite simple. Follow what they say. You want to make a statement and oppose them? Do so on at your own risk.

        • Michael Hopping

          And so we have what we have: a domestic Army assuming the worst from an otherized community. I appreciate your public confirmation of the point I made.

        • Michael Hopping

          Somehow my reply was truncated in the system. The rest of it said that I did in fact mean to use the word incentivize, as in negatively incentivize. In other professions, for instance, malpractice insurance is the way of managing liability for bad behavior. If that were applied to law enforcement, a department might pay the premium for each individual officer but be monetarily penalized for retaining officers with a record of claims made against them.

  3. Roger

    I was a democrat, up until five years ago, when I realized that the liberal party isn’t the party it professes to be…and granted, maybe it really never was what it claimed it is. [Count however many times the politicians in the party have flip-flopped on issues in order to drum up support from the “center,” how many times they’ve ignored Antifa violence for pure political purposes, how many times they’ve chosen to divide the community rather than listen to ALL the citizens…and the revelations speak volumes]. It’s a shame that the “elites” have placated the voice of “youth” who think they know it all, when it fact their emotional maturity fails just about every test as to what would unite the American People for real progress [to what would be truly “progressive” in contradistinction to what the holier-than-thou “Progressive” radicals are telling the rest of us we’d better do…or else! “Critical Path” thinking is not a matter of political correctness or for self-righteous radicals. Gun Control should be a concern for outlaws and criminals who have violated the law, or failed background checks…NOT for law-abiding citizens who are granted a Constitutional right to self-defense. Come on kids! Get real. Common sense legislation and democratic progress ain’t likely to happen as long as career politicians act without genuine concern for The American People and for true justice. Congressional tit-for-tat serials should be for soap opera viewers, only; not for citizens who believe in work and in doing the right thing. And tearing down the center of town is just the opposite of progress.

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