Law enforcement needs public eye

I have to congratulate Mountain Xpress on the Jan. 23 cover’s front-page juxtaposition of a sheriff’s department plagued by corruption (“Medford released from jail”) with a political establishment unwilling to confront a systemic lack of accountability (“APD Chief: No oversight needed”) paints a vivid picture for your readers.

I am a member of Citizens’ Awareness, the community group launched last November “to ensure proper conduct by law enforcement.” Despite some confusion in the press, Citizens’ Awareness has not petitioned for the creation of a city-authorized police-oversight body. Such an institution would have its hands tied with regards to personnel files and might well find itself unable to disclose the details of its findings to the public. Furthermore, a city-controlled oversight board would lack the independence necessary to objectively investigate criminal wrongdoing, essentially replicating the system we already have in place where government agencies are free to write their own report cards.

No, what Asheville needs is a police-oversight program unrestricted by the antidemocratic laws that shield officials from the light of public scrutiny. This is why Citizens’ Awareness is not seeking privileged access to existing government files. Instead, we will be independently soliciting our own complaints and building our own personnel records. The resulting database of public information will afford the people of Asheville an unprecedented basis on which to exercise their “inherent, sole, and exclusive right of regulating the internal government and police thereof,” as established by Article 1, Section 3 of the N.C. Constitution.

Although the support of City Council is not a requirement for successful community-driven oversight, Council could play a positive role by advocating for increased government transparency. The full and timely disclosure of details related to internal misconduct investigations would be a great start.

Citizens’ Awareness meets at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays in the St. James AME Church, 44 Hildebrand St.

— Scott Evans
Asheville

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28 thoughts on “Law enforcement needs public eye

  1. Traveleh

    Bad idea. Let them do their jobs. They don’t need any sissy citizen groups breathing down their necks. What they need is less restraint to go after the criminals. Perhaps a little preventative action would be in order. I think ad-hominid attacks should be outlawed and I can think of a good place to start-right here!

  2. Very, very bad idea, Scott. Persons not trained in law enforcement meddling in police matters only endangers the community and helps crime. Let law enforcement do it’s job unimpeded!

  3. Double Standard

    FROM: William A. Hogan, Chief of Police

    “The Department was advised that blocking the sidewalk would be the most appropriate charge. I do not have the facts at this time to determine if the individual arrested was in fact impeding the flow of pedestrian traffic.”

    I think it’s funny how Chief Hogan and the citys legal staff want to have it both ways depending on whose interest they are representing.

    Trucks blocking the sidewalk is reasonable behind Greenlife. People using the sidewalk for Highway bloging is unreasonable. Go figure!

    In this letter Chief Hogan says it’s OK to block sidewalks Example:
    http://www.ourasheville.org/greenlife/images-

    http://www.citizentimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=200880201060

    There is a double standard in asheville!

    Law enforcement needs public eye. YES

  4. travelah

    Yes, it is “job” and a good catch. She also cannot spell “travelah” correctly … heheheh.

  5. Let me get this straight… Asheville is besieged with crack cocaine, gangs, and all sorts of other criminal violence and you want to belabor the police over enforcement of sidewalk ordinances?

    Come on!

  6. Rob Close

    “belabor” them. so it’s too much effort for our cops to realize when they’re selectively choosing to enforce their laws?

    certainly there are more important issues, but that doesn’t mean we ignore freedom of speech. there’s always time to defend our liberties.

    and for everyone who says that a copwatch is a bad idea – how about you show up to a meeting first? until you do that, your characterizations of the group are ill-informed.

  7. I think a lot of people miss the point… the reason for law enforcement is not to be nice to you if you’re doing something thoughtless like blocking the sidewalk — law enforcement exists to protect all of us from the very real evils out there.

    Say ‘thank you’ and step aside.

  8. Yes… good question. “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” or ‘Who will guard the guards?’ from the Roman poet Juvenal.

    Might I suggest Captain America, now that he is being brought back to life.

    Batman could do it, too, but those searchlights are quite expensive to operate.

  9. Jason Bugg

    Ralph, Captain America isn’t being brought back to life so much as he has been replaced by his associate, James “Bucky” Barnes. I’d appreciate you not speaking from ignorance on such matters.

  10. Jason, I know that. I was speaking of the character being revived. I used to write for Comics Buyers Guide back in the good old days — I knows a lot more about comics than I need to.

  11. Dionysis

    Any municipal service group which is funded by tax dollars and exist to serve the citizenry that pays them should be subject to oversight. It is not up to the police to decide what “their job is.” Recent incidents of cops making up their own interpretations of what people should and shouldn’t do ought to give pause.

    Those who choose to insult citizens, promote censorship of free expression and think law enforcement should be completely unfettered from accountability should consider becoming an international consultant, perhaps starting with Albania, North Korea and the resurgent Russian police state.

  12. Dionysis

    Whoops, the word police will jump on this…the word ‘exist’ should read ‘exists’.

  13. quotequeen

    How long would authority … exist, if not for the willingness of the mass to become soldiers, policemen, jailers, and hangmen.
    ~ Emma Goldman

  14. I sometimes wish that people would put a little more emphasis upon the observance of the law than they do upon its enforcement.
    ~President Calvin Coolidge

  15. Rob Close

    Amazing Spider-Man 537, civil-war tie-in from last year – Captain America’s last good speech:

    Captain America: I remember the first time I really understood what it was to be an American…was it was to be a patriot.

    I was just a kid…a million years ago, it seems sometimes. Maybe twelve. I was reading Mark Twain.

    And he wrote something that struck me right down to my core…something so powerful, so true, that it changed my life. I memorized it so I could repeat it to myself, over and over across the years. He wrote —

    “In a republic, who is ‘the country?’ Is it the government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the government is merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. It’s function is to obey orders, not originate them.

    “Who, then, is ‘the country?’ Is it the newspaper? Is it the pulpit? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it; they have not command, they have only their little share in the command.

    “In a monarchy, the king and his family are the country; in a republic, it is the common voice of the people. Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak.

    “It is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catchphrases of politicians.

    “Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man.

    “To decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may.

    “If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country. Hold up your head. You have nothing to be ashamed of.”

    Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides something wrong is something right.

    This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences.

    When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world – – “No. You move.”

  16. Fallstaff

    Let the cops do their jobs without a bunch of anti-police “activists” interfering. You’re right Ralph. These whiners don’t know a thing about law enforcement. If you activists want to do something good, then get a neighborhood watch going and help the cops catch criminals.

  17. casey dean

    I think that you are intellectually outgunned on this one Mister Roberts. I have personally mixed feelings about the police and I can imagine that it is not an easy job. But if they don’t like their peaches, they shouldn’t shake the tree. The “tree” is the ideals of Americanism, which I am sure every law officer professes to duly uphold. And in short, the basic tenent of this ideal is individual sovereignty. I fear that we might be forgetting that. We don’t want our police to become the brownshirts, for then who’s bidding will they be doing,… yours?

  18. Fallstaff

    OMG, an “intellectual”. Casey must be about 20 years old I’d say. You have no idea how good our PD is here. Take a trip to Cuba. There you’ll see real brown shirts. The police here treat people with respect. I wish they would run off the bums from Pritchard Park though.

  19. casey dean

    Fallstaff, most cops are not bad cops, and sometimes even good cops have bad days, make mistakes and may do something wrong, but with that position even the wrong thing can be damaging – if not deadly. And there is a small majority of cops who shouldn’t be near a badge. Citizen oversight is the issue here. It may or may not be always a good thing. It shouldn’t be of just left or right leaning people. Who do you think the police should be answerable to?

  20. Fallstaff

    Civilian oversight by those who do not have law enforcement experience is a BAD thing. There is already a complaint procedure in place. The Chief polices his own, he has to answer to the Council. If an incident is very controversial, another police agency can do a second investigation. The City Council did the right in rejecting this busy-body oversight thing. The Asheville policedo a good job and are respectful to the people. If you want to see the opposite, go to Atlanta, Miami, or any of the yankee big cities.

  21. Rob Close

    Ah, the complaint process. Did you try to file any complaints last year, Fallstaff? I doubt it – because our police didn’t have a form for us to fill out to complain for most of last year. And who whined about it….our Copwatch. I hear that there is one there now, finally. But great suggestion Fallstaff, let’s have the cops investigate our complaints about the cops. If there’s actually corruption that needs to be examined, I’m sure they’ll have no reason to be biased.

  22. Viet Nam Vet

    Rob, perhaps he doesn’t break the law so doesn’t have any complaints. I’ve talked with several officers and found them all friendly and helpful. There is no problem here with APD. People like you just like to complain about something. Try the idea of being thankful to APD for protecting you from criminals. They put their lives on the line for us and deserve our thanks and our respect.

  23. Vinnie

    Jus keep them coppahs away frum me. Da NYPD hound me up in Nu Yawk da Bronx so I move heah. Hey whatsa mattah yous?

  24. Rob Close

    “People like you just like to complain about something.”

    coming for Nam Vet, that’s just hilarious! thanks for the laugh!

  25. Ashevegasjoe

    Falstaff– how old are you? You seem to use this accusation all to often. Are you so seasoned and wise that you are incapable of being disuaded. I call that stubborn and wrong headed. I know people who are wise when they’re young, and old people who are dumber than a bag of hammers. If you stick to facts and debate without attacking people for how old they are, or where they’re from, you might be a little more worth listening to. However, given what I’ve read, I’m leaning towards not.

  26. nam veteran

    Glad to give you a chuckle Rob. Actually, I see you as the whiner. I just react to your whining. I guess that makes me reactionary…in your book. In mine, it just means I point out the absurdity of those who whine from the left. There are so many more positives to life in the USA, than negatives. Look on the bright side amigo. :)

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