Letter: Why does APD get special treatment?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The cover story about the Asheville Police Department’s salaries was pretty rough to swallow for a couple reasons [“Priced Out: Police Officers Struggle to Afford Asheville Addresses,” April 10, Xpress].

It highlighted a very small number of local employees who all make over living wage. I’m sure other Xpress readers making less than living wage may also have found it strange. Many Asheville City employees, Asheville City/Buncombe County schoolteachers, hospitality workers, health care workers and restaurant workers make much less. The local housing crisis is dire and certainly deserves front-page coverage, but it continues a trend of treating police officers differently than other people.

Another glaring example is the statistics that the Mountain Xpress has published in this article and many other times are simply not true. APD’s staffing dashboard [avl.mx/dn8] is publicly available. When they say they are down 40% of staffing, they compare apples to oranges. They are comparing the number of sworn officers from years ago to the number of available officers (taking into account trainees and people on leave).

If they wanted to be honest, they would compare sworn officers to sworn officers or available officers to available officers. To report skewed data feels like a scare tactic, especially during a time when crime rates are down. It seems like irresponsible journalism to continue to publish this misleading data, when the numbers are so easily available.

This is another way APD is treated differently than other organizations. They are permitted to present obviously skewed data uncorrected. I know Mountain Xpress does thorough journalism on many issues. I don’t understand why this is an exception.

— Garrett Smith

Editor’s response: Thank you for your thoughts. Xpress’ recent cover story is one of several articles that explore the impact of high housing costs on community members. See “A Little Respect: Teachers and School Staff Hold Breath for Increased Pay,” June 1, 2023 (avl.mx/dls); “Asheville Artists Discuss Keeping Pace with the Rising Cost of Living,” Feb. 7 (avl.mx/dlt) and “Food and Beverage Workers Union Eyes Future Growth,” March 13 (avl.mx/dlu) for additional examples. In our most recent article on the topic, we wanted to understand the impact that our housing crisis has had on community policing. We feel the story accomplished this.

On the data, we reached out to APD spokesperson Samantha Booth with the writer’s points and received the following response, which says in part: “It’s crucial to clarify that our intention is not to employ scare tactics but to ensure that community members comprehensively understand the department’s staffing dynamics. The staffing dashboard provides all members of the public and media access to information that accurately evaluates the department’s allocated staffing levels and provides a comprehensive assessment of our overall capacity. This gauges operational readiness and identifies potential challenges in effectively meeting community needs on a daily basis.

“Providing the two sets of numbers — one reflecting daily manning numbers of sworn officers (available sworn personnel) and the other representing the department’s overall staffing — is essential for transparency and accuracy in reporting. Daily manning figures fluctuate due to various factors … which can span from days to months. This affects daily operations, such as response times and overall public safety. By providing this transparency, we aim to foster trust and collaboration between the department and the community, ensuring that our law enforcement efforts align closely with the needs and expectations of those we serve.”


Thanks for reading through to the end…

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6 thoughts on “Letter: Why does APD get special treatment?

  1. Voirdire

    the APD isn’t and doesn’t get “special treatment”, nor is it “treated differently than other organizations”. Really, this is an overwrought reach here …and very obviously attached to a/your defund the APD agenda. It’s misguided, misleading and not helpful …and frankly a bit dishonest. (…and certainly not a good look for your little band.. per usual) Just saying.

  2. Bright

    Asheville has the money to help everyone including the animals, but the city chooses to line their pockets first, and generously. Police, fire, infrastructure…the list goes on…could be brought up to respectable levels. Asheville chooses peer pressure to appear to be a quality place, but as usual, pours all froth and no beer.

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