Claim your sovereignty, Asheville

The issue of citizen oversight of our Asheville Police Department has been brought up a lot recently, but our leaders have thus far failed to enact anything with meaning. Our city established a Citizens/Police Advisory Committee (CPAC) years ago, but advice is completely different from genuine oversight. And if you can point to one thing that the CPAC has accomplished, I’d be surprised—their portion of the city Web site is useless, with no capacity for reviewing their work, learning about meetings, or even their very function: inputting advice! Do they even meet?

The North Carolina Constitution declares in Article I, Section 3, that “The people of this State have the inherent, sole, and exclusive right of regulating the internal government and police thereof,” yet we know of no mechanism to make this reality. Every week, new widows, orphans and average citizens affected by unnecessary police brutality come to the Citizens Awareness Coalition (CAC) to share their stories, working with the group to officially document their cases as we all investigate solutions with teeth for these particular affronts to our sovereignty.

Kyle Ann Ross recently wrote a commentary for the Xpress [“Shocked,” Sept. 12] stating that she was looking for community leaders to address this very issue. As of Sept. 19, she has joined efforts with the CAC, sharing her work with that of so many others who understand that violence affects us all. Our numbers also include three City Council candidates who continue to whole-heartedly participate—Libertarian William Meredith and independents Lindsey Simerly and Dee Williams. City Council is in charge of the city manager who oversees our Police Department—the same department that criticized the methods of Lt. Franklin’s recent report against them.

I’ve seen little explanation of what was actually wrong with the methodology of that report, but I’ll tell you that I’ve personally met many adult black men in this city recently—average Joes—who are honestly scared of being murdered for speaking out. Franklin’s thesis is inherently and obviously true, and denying his methods was a cheap way of attacking the messenger rather than acknowledging the issue. If the problem with the methodology was that nobody signed their names to their statements, understand that these are people who believe their lives are threatened. The problem is that bad—but historically, it has always been this way in the United States. This is news, but it isn’t new.

If you believed that the law could come to your doorstep and kill you with impunity, would you act? Would you like to be able to question an authority figure without risking being tasered? If you would, I have two suggestions: First, come to a CAC meeting any Wednesday at Eaties downtown beginning at 7 p.m. (come early if you’re hungry). Second, on Thursday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m., the CAC will be attending the ACLU’s forum at UNCA, looking for ideas beyond this stalemate. Fresh leaders who aren’t intimidated, please come and stand up!

— Rob Close


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