Council nixes idea for citizen’s police-oversight board

Despite alleged incidents of serious police misconduct over the past couple of years, the City Council decided in a 5-2 vote at its Jan. 15 meeting to nix the creation of an official citizen’s police-oversight board.

In a presentation to Council, Asheville Police Chief William Hogan said the issue of citizen oversight is a “bit of a complex topic.” He lobbied against such a board, citing several layers of existing city and independent police oversight and reiterating that state personnel-records laws regarding privacy and other prohibitions would likely render such a board toothless.

The recommendation to maintain the status quo passed on a 5-2 vote, with Council members Brownie Newman and Robin Cape voting against. Both said they had insufficient information from dissenting voices to vote otherwise. Though the group Citizen Awareness Asheville had recently said it would create a board regardless of what the city decided, no members of the group or the general public rose to speak in favor of a city-sanctioned citizens’ board during the discussion — though one woman later in the meeting did rise briefly to say for the record she was in favor of it (see “Who watches the watchers?” Nov. 14, 2007).

One audience member rose in defense of Hogan and the job he has done as police chief. “I would like to know why we need a bunch of civilians watching the police when that’s your job,” Fred English told Council.

Despite the vote, several Council members, including Vice Mayor Jan Davis and Carl Mumpower, both of whom serve on Council’s Public Safety Committee, said more could be done to instill confidence in the police department among the public. Among the steps that might be taken, noted Mumpower, was for the city, the police department and the existing Citizens Police Advisory Committee (which has no oversight authority) to work together and find ways to strengthen the existing citizen-complaint process. Mumpower also suggested that the Public Safety Committee needed to evaluate and possibly strengthen the utility of the existing advisory committee, as well as do a better job of communicating the limitations of citizen oversight under state law. Mumpower also noted the Public Safety Committee should make an effort to meet with groups such as Citizen Awareness Asheville and others “to see how we can better address their issues … and incorporate their concerns into our existing structure.

For the full report on the Council meeting, check out the Jan. 23 issue of Xpress.

— Hal L. Millard, staff writer

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14 thoughts on “Council nixes idea for citizen’s police-oversight board

  1. Rob Close

    Excuse me, Mr. Hogan, but with gems like this being printed this week, how can I believe you?:

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Edwards had argued that Medford was “the head of the snake” of a criminal operation and that, unless incarcerated, he could still find ways to contact his loyalists and tamper with witnesses. He said that Medford’s release might prove especially harmful as the investigation was ongoing and included other former and current sheriff’s deputies.

    “The ‘de-Baathification’ of the sheriff’s department, so to speak, is not over yet,” he argued.

    Oh! So we’re supposed to feel safe knowing that there are criminal loyalists still working as law enforcement agents – yet there’s no evidence of any need for oversight? Total B.S. These stories are entirely related, even though we’re talking Asheville Police vs. County Sheriff’s Dept. Corruption does not exist in a vacuum.

  2. “Though the group Citizen Awareness Asheville had recently said it would create a board regardless of what the city decided, no members of the group or the general public rose to speak in favor of a city-sanctioned citizens’ board during the discussion”

    Nor have any members attended any meetings of the Public Safety Commission or the Citizen’s/Police Advisory Committee.

  3. Nam Vet

    I’m glad this idea was panned. The Asheville PD is not the kind of police force that needs to be watched carefully. They do not use excessive force and do not discriminate against minorities. They are well managed and polite to the citizenry. They bend over backwards to not step on the civil rights of nutjob bums like the colorful man with the puppet. In the main, that is.

    Citizen oversight boards try to meddle in a business few of them understand. An oversight board would only interfere and cause the APD extra stress. My only criticism of the APD is that I wish they would leave an extra 2 officers downtown rather than have them sit out on I-40 and I-240 writing traffic tickets. But that decision probably has it’s root in the city government leaders who want to add the ticket fine money to the city’s coffers.

  4. Rob Close

    a few years ago we were protesting the iraq war. the police were following us, and eventually they had to ask people to get off the roads and onto the sidewalk. so far, understandable.

    my friend dan WAS walking on the sidewalk. but that didn’t stop the police from grabbing him and violently throwing him onto the street face-first. if anyone had that on video-tape, those officers would be in trouble. but there was no copwatch.

    I saw this happen. so anyone who believes there is no chance of any problems ever occurring with our police, I retort that I have directly seen them act with excessive violence, and only wish there was a copwatch at that time to protect our rights.

    95% of them doing a good job does NOT mean we can sit by and let that 5% abuse their authority. ignoring a problem does not make it go away, and a well-trained copwatch does NOT interfere with police, only keep them honest. good cops have nothing to worry about. any cop that whines about this is indicating that they are otherwise.

  5. Nam Vet

    Rob, sorry that happened to your friend. You are right. 95% of police behave well. But they are human and occasionally make mistakes. I have police experience, 6 years as a deputy auxillary with the LAPD. Believe me, APD is a good professional force. The LAPD was too, they just had a LOT more stress on the job, more extreme crime to deal with. I am impressed with the APD. The last thing they need is a civilian board interfering in the great job they do. The 5% who do the unprofessional stuff, or a lower percentage perhaps, are normally “policed” by their own. The Chief has to answer to city leaders. If youmake a complain, he will investigate. After all, the majority don’t want a few “human” mistakes to sully their department.

  6. someone else

    nam vet “I’m glad this idea was panned. The Asheville PD is not the kind of police force that needs to be watched carefully. They do not use excessive force and do not discriminate against minorities. They are well managed and polite to the citizenry. They bend over backwards to not step on the civil rights of nutjob bums like the colorful man with the puppet. In the main, that is.”

    And what do you base this ‘knowledge” on, sir? Those are large statements to make without any support.

  7. Rob Close

    I wish I believed that about Hogan. But I got a very different opinion of his reliability from his words at the ACLU forum. Van Duncan, too.

    A Copwatch member showed him a series of pictures, claiming that they showed tazer burns that the APD had inflicted – and explained that the burns happened because the officers took off the safeties so that the 2 probes were revealed. Having looked at tazer designs online and the photos in question, it’s my opinion that the marks were consistent with the claim. A common-sense opinion, btw, not a professional one.

    Hogan looked at the pictures and denied that it was even possible. Hogan explained that tazer’s don’t make 2 marks like that – which is true IF you ignore the “safeties taken off”, which he ignored. He didn’t even consider that there was a chance that the claim was true.

    Sounds like a leader with his head buried in the sand, or willfully corrupt. Or maybe we’re all wrong and misguided, which I’ll consider – but at least we’re trying to find out the truth. We are Hogan’s Employer. Yes he has a responsibility to defend his men, but not to hide or deny anything potentially true.

    Does anyone have any video of this from the ACLU forum? Tim? Anyone else who was there have an opinion on this?

  8. “Does anyone have any video of this from the ACLU forum?”

    I know that Paul Snow, formerly of URTV, filmed the event for the City of Asheville. I don’t have his contact information.

  9. Nam Vet

    Someone else, I base my opinion on observation and interaction with APD officers. I was an LAPD volunteer for 6 years, and have some experience there. First hand. I speak from my own perspective, like we all do. I have some experience. Do you? People have opinions, but based in what? The APD does a good job, in the main. If they didn’t, they would constantly be in the news. They aren’t. I suggest you send some time downtown and talk to some officers. Then maybe you will have more of a foundation to opine from.

  10. someone else

    Well,

    In my own personal observation many of them are bigoted, unclear of the boundaries of their power, and a little too trigger-happy with the tazers. Not to mention completely unaware of the speed limit on Montford as the zoom down into Klondike to harass the locals. But I guess someone who claims an affiliation with the LAPD, one of the dirtier police organizations in the country, might not understand those sorts of citizen concerns. In fact, an interested party could learn a bit about the LAPD by googling LAPD copwatch. But I digress by giving your own convoluted opinions a little too much attention.
    There is no doubt in my mind that you believe your opinions are sacrasanct. But you may be surprised to discover that many other people who have grown up in this community (such as myself, as opposed to moving here from California as seems to be the case for yourself) have seen some less-than-desirable sides of the APD.
    Now, this is not to say that the entire force does a bad job. In fact, most of us know that the undesirable activity they do IS their job. But the point of a Copwatch is so that the community, as a whole, can have a better understanding of what their ‘job’ entails; harassment, violence, selective enforcement.
    But thanks for getting all defensive and preachy. It’s kinda cute.

  11. Nam Vet

    Someone else, I wasn’t getting defensive, just expanded my point of view for you. Looks like it was a waste of time. You appear to be beyond logical debate. It’s a great country we live in, where even an uninformed jerk such as yourself can freely run his mouth. Hey, let’s have a beer together. Name a time and place. Or do you want to just remain anonymous? :)

  12. someonelse

    Wow,

    So, er, does the mountain xpress condone responses like Nam Vet’s, or only by default? It is unfortunate that the level of discussion on this board is brought down by people who call names and engage in other “Trolling” activities just to fill their own lives.

    And I’m serious, too. I am looking for a response from one of the moderators or Editors at the paper.

  13. Jon Elliston

    Hey “Nam Vet,”

    “Someoneelse” has a good point here — please don’t call people names (like “uniformed jerk”). If you continue to do so, we’ll need to cancel your posts. All the passion people are bringing to the comments is welcome, but the name-calling is not.

    Thank you,

    Jon Elliston
    Mountain Xpress

  14. Nam Vet

    OK Jon, I went a bit over the line. But I really just wanted to face him in his criticism. That’s all. Most people soften criticism when they are face to face. The APD deserves our respect, not anonymous sniping. They risk their lives to protect us.Let’s have some respect.

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