Driving on I-240 recently, I passed a tan Explorer sitting on the left shoulder of the road, headlights flashing and blue lights inside. In front of this vehicle was a motorcycle, with a helmeted man standing there. As I passed, I noticed in the rearview window that the Explorer was pulling back on to the interstate, so I stayed in the right-hand lane and the Explorer passed me on the left, with all lights now off. I pulled in behind him, going almost 60, but thought I would lose him before getting the license plate numbers. However, he got stuck behind a tanker truck and I did manage to catch up to him [and get] the number. I [then] passed him on the right and looked at him. He was a white man who did not appear to be wearing a police uniform.
It appeared to me that this was an undercover cop in an unmarked vehicle giving a traffic citation to the guy on the motorcycle. I am of the opinion that having unmarked police cars stopping traffic for citations greatly increases the danger to women in our city, since we will not know the difference between a legitimate cop and a pretend cop with lights inside his vehicle. I [also think] that having officers deliver traffic citations while out of uniform increases the danger to women traveling in the region.
If this was a legitimate police officer doing a legitimate traffic stop, he needs to stop being a hypocrite and start respecting traffic laws himself. If this is someone driving around impersonating police officers, he needs to be in jail.
At a recent forum at UNCA, Sheriff Duncan [indicated he] thinks the population is suffering from misperceptions of his deputies. He also admitted that the recent arrest over a flag display was unlawful—but not that Deputy Scarborough went into the Kuhn’s home without probable cause or a search warrant or their permission. This was, in my eyes, a home invasion. I find it frightening that this was done without any repercussions to the deputy. I think it is Sheriff Duncan who is suffering from misperceptions.
I also witnessed an incident at Bele Chere and wrote a letter to Chief Hogan two months ago, who now says he has finished the investigation [but] has yet to set up a meeting with me and other witnesses. He did inform me at the UNCA forum that I did not see what I thought I saw.
The sheriff and the chief think the general public is suffering from misperceptions, and internal investigations seem to lead nowhere. If what I saw was an undercover police officer, I would like the city to stop using them for traffic stops and have the officer cited for speeding on I-240. If this was not a legitimate police officer, then that vehicle needs to be tracked down and this situation investigated.
— Susan Oehler
Chief Hogan responds: This is not an Asheville Police vehicle, and I do not know what agency has this vehicle in their fleet. You have a number of state agencies that do not wear uniforms but they are empowered to enforce all state laws. The State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) are two examples of such law enforcement agencies. Local law enforcement also has officers in plain-clothes assignments. It comes down to a judgment call by the non-uniformed officer on whether to stop or not. Should an officer allow someone who is drunk and a danger to other motorist[s] continue to drive, or should they attempt to make a stop?
I advise citizens who question whether a person attempting to stop them is a legitimate officer to drive to a busy location so they will not be isolated during the stop. They can call the local law enforcement agency if they have a cell phone to obtain assistance and ensure the unmarked vehicle is a legitimate police vehicle.
Ms. Oehler has been invited to meet with me and others involved in her complaint about an officer’s conduct at Bele Chere … . My door is open for her to discuss her complaint with me and staff.