Zack and Edwards offer contrasting views of crime, policing

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE: Asheville Police Chief David Zack, pictured, and Republican Sen. Chuck Edwards offered their thoughts on the state of crime and policing in Asheville during an Aug. 20 meeting of the Council of Independent Business Owners. Photo courtesy of the Asheville Police Department

Some people see the glass as half full while others see it as half empty. The Council of Independent Business Owners got an earful of both perspectives during its Aug. 20 meeting when Asheville Police Chief David Zack and Republican state Sen. Chuck Edwards offered contrasting interpretations of the state of policing and crime in Asheville.

Chief Zack noted that while APD is still dealing with the loss of 84 police officers since January 2020, which he said leaves the department operating with a 25%-40% staffing deficit on any given day, operations at APD have started to level out.

“After going through an initial tough phase, we’ve really gotten our footing. Things have very much stabilized,” Zack said.

He noted that the department recently swore in four new officers and that 10 other recruits are in the process of completing the APD’s law enforcement basic training. 

“Interestingly, we are getting some applicants from outside the Asheville area and from out of state. We appreciate that, but still I think it’s really important that we try and grab some homegrown talent as well,” Zack explained. “We are definitely looking at maybe some unconventional or new strategies with recruitment. That’s going to take a significant effort, but we certainly have to be more creative than we have in the past.”  

Zack also said that while the Asheville Police Department had been hit particularly hard by resignations, the situation is not unique. Departments around the country continue to experience low recruitment numbers, with many officers leaving the profession altogether. 

He also said officer morale is also beginning to rise in part to recent actions like Asheville City Council voting 6-1 to raise Asheville’s starting police officer pay by more than 20%, and local business group AVL Business Owners funding a billboard on Patton Avenue that thanks local police officers.  

“When you think the whole world’s against you, really all you need to bolster your spirit and to bolster your morale is just somebody to say, ‘Hey we appreciate the job you’re doing,’” he said.

Zack also responded to a national report on Fox News that named Asheville as one of the nation’s top-10 violent cities. Verifying the report would require a deep dive into its ranking methodology, he said, but he pointed to recent APD statistics that show violent crime in Asheville has risen steadily over the last five years.

“To say that we have a violent crime problem, yes, we do. I would be disingenuous if I said otherwise,” Zack said. “With that being said, if we look at today’s numbers in comparison … it seems to be leveling. I wouldn’t say it’s going down by a statistically significant number; we have to see where we’re at at the end of summer and moving into fall, but I think we’ve stabilized somewhat. 

“I think sometimes there’s a thought that this is solely an Asheville problem when it’s really not. We’re seeing, especially in major cities, rising violent crime,” he continued. “Our violent crime has not gone through the roof as it has in some communities. It has stayed pretty level, pretty consistent from where we’ve been over the last year or so.”

Sen. Edwards, however, painted a less promising picture of policing in Asheville. He said he appreciated Zack’s reassuring view of the situation but added, “I’m not as optimistic.” 

Edwards said that Zack had provided a diplomatic analysis of Asheville’s policing and crime, but the issues are more extensive and distressing than the chief had described.

“That word stabilization bothered me in a number of ways,” he said. “I can get away with saying this where maybe he can’t: What we’ve done is established where the bottom is. We’ve established that the bottom is losing nearly 90 officers and we’ve established that the bottom is the decay that we’ve seen in police officer morale.”

Edwards praised local businesses that are providing support to officers but encouraged members of the public to put pressure on City Council and other leaders to stand in solidarity with police.

“I think we need to show up at City Council meetings and demand that they show support. I think that we ought to insist that City Council show up in a meeting with ‘Back the Blue’ T-shirts on. I think we should insist that the City Council pass resolutions in support of police officers. I think we should insist that City Council call officers in at every single meeting and recognize them for their personal contribution,” Edwards said.

And while he didn’t object to Zack’s assertion that police staffing issues and rising crime rates were not unique to Asheville, he maintained that the problems were out of proportion for a city of its size and culture, calling them “inexcusable.” 

“We’re better than that. We’re different than that. We are mountain people. We have different values,” Edwards said. “It is simply inexcusable that Asheville is 10th in this nation in violent crime.”

The business council unanimously approved a resolution supporting the Asheville Police Department following the remarks by Zack and Edwards.


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9 thoughts on “Zack and Edwards offer contrasting views of crime, policing

  1. dyfed

    It is cheering to see Council reverse course like this—from public grandstanding in obeisance to BLM and defund-police enthusiasts, to (quietly, meekly) passing raises and symbolic resolutions in support of APD. And while I wish the loudmouth activists who got us here would admit how wrong they were about what Asheville’s problems were, I know that’s a pipe dream and pointless besides.

    It’s not enough, of course: while we don’t need to panic, Edwards is right that ‘stabilization’ will be a disastrous state if it’s not quickly followed by decrease. Ultimately we need many new hires and, if we want not just to talk about neighborhood policing but actually do it, we’re going to need to end up with more cops than we started with before this boondoggle.

    • luther blissett

      Back the Blue shirts? Resolutions? “We should insist that City Council call officers in at every single meeting and recognize them for their personal contribution.” Who is this “we”, Chuck? Get back to Hendersonville. We already know you’re very clear about who the police are for and who needs to be policed. “Mountain people?” You live in a giant retirement community. We know the kind of “different values” stuff that’s underpoliced or unpoliced in rural areas. Go away. This is fashy stuff. It is abhorrent.

      But at least Chuck is saying the quiet part out loud: the radicals who wave the People’s Republic of Copistan flag — a travesty and perversion of our nation’s flag, the flag of a separatist movement — don’t see “support the police” in terms of financial support. (Defund the TDA; fund the police.) They want elected representatives to swear oaths of allegiance to their uniformed overlords. They want the mayor to prostrate herself at the feet of some random cops at every Council meeting. They want cops to be given a free pass and hailed as the thin blue line protecting us all from anarchy but also treated as sensitive snowflakes who need symbolic gestures and participation trophies on a weekly basis.

      Policing is a municipal function.

      “if we want not just to talk about neighborhood policing but actually do it, we’re going to need to end up with more cops than we started with before this boondoggle”

      Let’s first see what happens if cops have to get out of their cars and start seeing neighborhoods without a windshield in the way. Let’s first see what happens if the majority of policing isn’t done from behind a steering wheel. The concept of neighborhood policing is fundamentally incompatible with commuter cops and cops who have a weaker relationship with neighborhoods than Amazon delivery drivers.

      Rezone policing.

      • Mike R.

        Neighborhood policing works just great when you have a neighborhood that actually embraces law and order. But some neighborhoods don’t quite measure up in this regard….the first time one of their own is arrested (appropriately), the cops are no longer viewed as such great neighbors.

        I’m not saying greater attempt to connect with (particularly) troubled communities is a wrong approach. And I believe policing around the country has attempted more of it. But our crime and social problems go way beyond our policing and include the judicial system, prisons, and general overall greater tolerance today of repeat petty and violent offenders.

        Life in America has gotten too comfortable and too easy. As a result all this crime is someone else’s problem. When things return to harder times (as they most certainly will) for all of us, you will find very quickly how intolerant the greater good will be of all crime.

        • luther blissett

          “Neighborhood policing works just great when you have a neighborhood that actually embraces law and order.”

          If you police a neighborhood with the preconception that laws are being broken then you’re going to find laws being broken. The affluent old white hippies of North Asheville don’t think they’re going to be pulled over and checked out for whether their car smells of weed. The Doers of Business at CIBO don’t expect to face random checks of their accounts for fraud. This is like the drunk guy searching for his keys under a street light.

          “our crime and social problems go way beyond our policing and include the judicial system, prisons, and general overall greater tolerance today of repeat petty and violent offenders.”

          So you think that the US, with a higher per capita rate of incarceration than anywhere in the world, should be locking up more people?

  2. luther blissett

    This should also be a reminder that CIBO is a collection of pint-sized self-regarding oligarchs — the heart of the MAGA constituency — who are disgusted by local democracy and consider the police their personal security force.

  3. Keith

    The supporters of the extremists who attacked and murdered law enforcement officers, who defended our constitution and elected officials at our nation’s Capitol on January 6, 2021, are not yet done attacking our system of laws and democratic self government.

  4. ashevillain7

    T-shirts? LOL. What an absolute clown. Does his office still have that obviously photoshopped picture of him standing on a waterfall?

  5. Heather WAVL

    I certainly wouldn’t expect our STATE SENATOR to fact check (*eyeroll*) but definitely would expect that the Mountain Xpress gave it a go! We are NOT in the top 10. We are in the top 10 PERCENT. That is a completely different number. While I don’t want to minimize the issues we have here in AVL, I feel that it’s important to get this right.

    “Asheville ranks No. 329 by violent crime rate, which ranks it in the top 10% most violent U.S. cities.” according to this independent study.


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