Nearly a month after an anticipated release in late July, Asheville City Council has shared the final report from Chicago-based 21CP Solutions about the city’s policies and procedures in relation to a police beating scandal. Since April, the consulting firm has been reviewing the beating of black Asheville resident Johnnie Jermaine Rush by white former Asheville Police Department officer Chris Hickman for alleged jaywalking, which took place last August. 21CP has also examined APD and city responses in the wake of the incident.
The report shares nine key findings about the incident and its aftermath. About the arrest itself, 21CP concludes that other officers at the scene did not appropriately intervene in Hickman’s excessive use of force and notes that neither Hickman nor Sgt. Lisa Taube informed medical personnel about the multiple Taser cycles Rush sustained.
21CP does believe that the APD “responded to the incident in a timely manner, and within the limitations of North Carolina law.” While the report says that the Asheville Citizen Times release of leaked body camera footage from the beating “may have undermined the formal administrative review processes already underway,” it does not mention any specific impacts the video may have had on those processes. The release took place on Feb. 28, while Hickman resigned on Jan. 5, and Taube accepted corrective and disciplinary action on Jan. 18.
The report is also the first official confirmation that City Attorney Robin Currin knew about the incident before the video release. Previous reports have focused on former interim Assistant City Manager Jade Dundas, who told WLOS in a March 8 interview that APD Chief Tammy Hooper informed him directly. At the time, Hooper also mentioned reporting directly to Dundas.
The 21CP report, however, says Hooper first informed Assistant City Attorney John Maddux, who in turn told Currin about the incident. The report goes on to say that Dundas was then informed by Hooper “within days.” While the report backs up the city’s claim that City Council members, former City Manager Gary Jackson and Mayor Esther Manheimer were unaware of the beating until the video release, 21CP does not mention directly interviewing any of them in its review.
Currin announced her resignation on July 5, nearly a month before the 21CP report was scheduled for completion. In an interview with the Citizen-Times following that announcement, Currin said the timing was for “personal and professional” reasons and was not tied to the Rush incident in any way. She is currently slated to serve as Raleigh’s city attorney after her resignation becomes effective on Thursday, Sept. 27.
In its final recommendation, the report asserts that the city’s Civil Service Board is currently “inefficient and requires improvement.” One city staffer is referenced as saying that “the process helps to keep bad employees in place, as many supervisors are likely to avoid discipline or demotion so that they do not have to deal with the CSB process.”
The full report is linked below. 21CP will present on the report as part of City Council’s next regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 28 at 5 p.m. in council Chambers.