Letter: My experience with Asheville police

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I’ve had a complicated situation with having taken in two teenagers a couple of years ago, without having had actual custody. I therefore did not have full authority to make decisions on behalf of the young people. A relative of one of the teens called the police repeatedly. I called on this relative a few times myself. Officers from the Asheville Police Department have been out to my house around 15 times in the last two years. I have found them to be concerned about people’s welfare, respectful of our constitutional rights, exercising sound judgment and functioning as real allies in my efforts to be helpful to the young people.

People may assume that my positive assessment of the police I have interacted with is because I am an uncritical supporter of the status quo. Such an assumption would be far from the truth: I have been an anti-war activist, especially against our invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. I have been arrested for civil disobedience.

I’ve had my own homestead in West Asheville, where a continually changing group of us grew fruits and vegetables, raised poultry and even had goats for a while; some residents slept in the main house, while others slept in outbuildings in the yard. When the “building and safety” department of Asheville city government became aware of people sleeping in the outbuildings, they put a stop to that aspect of our homesteading endeavor. One of my neighbors once remarked, “I couldn’t hope to have better neighbors than you folks.” Still the building codes at that time did not allow for people sleeping in outbuildings. In many ways, I have lived on the fringe of society.

The police are in a difficult position: They are employees of a government, and all governments that I have investigated are corrupt. Still, without a government to make laws and enforce them, do many really believe that everyone would treat their fellow citizens better than the laws require — and are usually able to compel — them to now? In a course titled Big History, the lecturer David Christian stated: As organisms become more complex, a nervous system develops, and as societies become more complex, they form governments.

Unfortunately, corruption is ubiquitous (everywhere or seemingly everywhere); character is often sacrificed in the pursuit of power. None of us are completely immune from misusing whatever power we do have: Look at what we often do with our consumer choices. Even governing ourselves properly is challenging at times, often requiring courageous, honest self- reflection upon our own faults and shortcomings, especially when looking into the mirror of relationship.

The police are being disproportionately (to an extent which is out of proportion, beyond what is fitting) blamed for our societal woes, while most of us refuse to reflect adequately upon our own poor choices. The Asheville police who have come out to my house have been doing their humanly, albeit imperfect, best to be helpful and respectful, and I have appreciated their efforts.

— Steve Arpin


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11 thoughts on “Letter: My experience with Asheville police

  1. Jo

    Steve, I think you should look into the issue more. The police alone are not being blamed for, as you poorly state, “societal woes.” The police and justice system throughout the country have shown that minorities are not treated equally. It goes beyond the people doing the arresting. The incarceration system is a failure. Nothing is done to help rehabilitate or help, so when a minority is released back into an already biased world with a criminal record they are going to have an even harder time making it. I am certain that if you were not white male your encounters with the police would be very different. It really does not matter at this point to hear about a white males perspective on the police, because this isn’t the group of people being affected. I hope I hope I do not come across to harsh, but the best way to be is blunt.

    • Xiden lost, we all know it.

      Maybe you should look into crime statistics before you offer your ignorant opinion.

      • Joe

        And maybe you should educate yourself on why crime rates are high– INEQUALITY, GENTRIFICATION, UNEMPLOYMENT– 3 predictive factors Asheville is high in. Historically more police has not shown to lower crime rates. Social programs lowers crime rates.

  2. Mike R.

    Nice article and thank you for taking the time and energy to share with the community. I too am one of those who believe that most police officers are good people and want to do the right thing and enforce our laws.

    Having said that, there are too many bad actors out there with guns. If were a policeman, I would be very careful (suspicious) of anyone I question or detain. There are just too many officers shot dead in our society trying to do their job.

    • Lou

      You have obviously never been subjected to inhumane treatment based on the color of your skin. I am sick to death of all you white dudes trying to mansplain racism or your perceived disbelief that it even exists. Give me a break.

  3. John

    I had many interactions with APD when I was homeless and I agree. They were always cool. They did have our best interest mind. If you resist arrest you may have a problem but that is the resisters fault. Some city’s may have terrible law enforcement, but in Asheville we are pretty lucky.

    • Joe

      And as a victim-advocate I know people without homes who have been kicked in the head by APD while they were sleeping. As the sage saying go, “Just because they didn’t abuse you, doesn’t mean they didn’t abuse someone else.”

  4. Lou

    Oh Steve, something tells me you are as white as the days are longer now. Nice try.

  5. bsummers

    In 2003, on the day the war in Iraq started, 30 of us were arrested by APD for protesting in the street. The employees at the County jail told us they were advised by APD that morning (long before any laws were broken) to expect 30 new prisoners by afternoon. APD could have simply kept the peace and let people blow off some steam, but somewhere the decision was made to send a message.

    It isn’t just the behavior of individual cops that matter – it’s the policies they’re ordered to enforce.

    • Enlightened Enigma

      Yes, especially these days.

      There was another thriving West Avl community that was housing about 35 people comfortably but city
      said ‘too many accessory structures on the property’ and busted it up. Now houses about 15 humans.
      Too many regulations ruin good things…

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