The case for keeping APD Chief Tammy Hooper

Cecil Bothwell

BY CECIL BOTHWELL

Eight years on Asheville’s City Council gives one a sort of 30,000-foot perspective on the issues that roil our lovely town. My particular focus today is on the Asheville Police Department. As in too many cities around the country, there have been dismal instances of bad cop behavior, together with many more largely unnoticed, stellar enforcement efforts. Just for starters: I condemn the first and applaud the latter.

Lately, we have seen a media storm cooked up by the Asheville Citizen Times around a body-cam video revealing the assault on a black jaywalker, Johnnie Rush, by an APD officer — the release of which was illegal under North Carolina state law. Just to be clear: When I was chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, I argued long and hard that release of body-cam footage should be legal, at least with certain reasonable constraints. The N.C. General Assembly thinks otherwise. The daily has deemed it urgent to link that video post to a continuing series of stories connected to that sad event in which an innocent black man was violently assaulted by a white officer. Juicy stories have always sold papers.

The activist-community reaction has been to aver that the lag time between the officer assault and release of the video represents an attempt at a cover-up, and that the firing of the miscreant officer and ensuing indictment were the result of the video release. Sorry, no banana.

Let’s think back to the tenure of Asheville Police Chief William Anderson. He was the first black police chief in Asheville, and per informal reports, a little too militaristic in his leadership style to suit some. (Ashvegas is more laid-back than that.) In any event, his son wrecked the family car, and Anderson showed up at the scene. His car, his son. Would you not?

Yet he was accused of trying to interfere in the investigation and prosecution of whatever wrongdoing could have occurred. No evidence ever confirmed that idea. None whatsoever. Over my objection, Council decided that Anderson had inappropriately sought an interview with Lt. William Wilke while he was being interviewed by the State Bureau of Investigation, but Anderson insisted that he had no knowledge of the ongoing interview when Wilke simply refused to come to the chief’s office, without explanation. So Anderson sent an officer with orders to retrieve Wilke from wherever he might be found.

An inner circle of upper-level officers managed to poison that well. By accounts I deem reliable, they resented taking orders from a black man. They stirred the pot. And restirred. Anderson ultimately retired.

Now we have seen release of body-cam footage, strictly illegal under state law absent judicial review. What was the aim? To embarrass current Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper. Some might want to believe that the reason was to expose wrongdoing by an officer, but anyone with access to the video knew that the officer had already been  disciplined. To imagine that a senior officer actually wanted to release one more video that painted police as racist and abusive seems a stretch to me. There are (perhaps at this writing, hopefully, were) senior officers who didn’t like taking orders from a woman. This is the same crowd that forced out Anderson. I mean, specifically the same officers. I have been told this by a source with first-person, inside knowledge of the situation, but feel compelled to protect my source from possible repercussions. This is insider politics at its worst. This is unquestionably taking place inside the APD, and any “progressive” who seizes on this to argue for Hooper’s ouster is working for the other side. Unwittingly, sure. But unquestionably so.

Though you would have a hard time understanding this from the Citizen Times’ coverage, the unacceptable behavior of the officer who choked a jaywalker had already been investigated and appropriate actions taken long before the video was leaked. The case had already been referred to the Buncombe County District Attorney.

The only purpose of the video release to the newspaper was to cast doubt on the leadership of Chief Hooper. Some senior officer with access to that tape must have given it to the paper. Some senior officer who had to know that the case had already been handled in strict accordance with Civil Service rules, but wished to put a thumb on the scales.

For those with a short local memory, Chief Anderson faced a similar case of a cop accused of abusing a citizen, and Anderson fired the cop immediately. The cop was reinstated by the Civil Service Board because it found the officer had not been given adequate due process. In contrast, Chief Hooper took her time, followed all the legal procedures and was able to successfully eject the cop who violated the civil rights of Mr. Rush. The city has now paid Rush a substantial settlement for his mistreatment.

Yet Hooper is condemned for the appearance of “hiding” an investigation she never hid and accused of “only acting when the video was released.” Both claims are entirely false.

It seems a real shame when the right wing is able to wag the left wing’s tail. Having observed, firsthand, the tenure of five chiefs, either permanent or “acting” during my years on Council, I have to observe that when Asheville eventually loses Chief Hooper, any replacement will, beyond question, be a loss for the city. She’s the best leader APD has had in living memory. Sure as hell hope we don’t blow it.

Cecil Bothwell served on Asheville City Council 2009-17.

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11 thoughts on “The case for keeping APD Chief Tammy Hooper

  1. Richard B.

    Mr. Bothwell’s argument for keeping Police Chief Hooper, and the larger issue he presents of what he calls “insider politics at its worst” within the AVL Police Department, is both informative and compelling. One of the reasons I read the Mountain Express is for just such insights. Another issue he alludes to is the coverage, lack of it, or bias in the reporting of “the media storm cooked up by the Asheville Citizen Times”. So there’s a lot in this article. Maybe too much.
    Mr. Bothwell’s own biases are first disclosed with the little snippet [that any progressive” who seizes on this to argue for Hooper’s ouster is working for the other side].
    And at the end of the otherwise clearsighted and thoughtful discourse is this ill-considered remark – ‘It seems a real shame when the right wing is able to wag the left wing’s tail.”

    Okay, he is certainly entitled to his opinions, which others may call biases, as we all are. However, my thinking, after reading through it a second time, is that the illogic presented in these two statements, in the larger political context under discussion, substantially undermines the feeling of satisfaction that one has learned something new and interesting…useful knowledge.

    First, on what basis is Mr. Bothwell’

    • Richard B.

      (Sorry, hit a wrong button, my reply continues)…
      First, on what basis is Mr. Bothwell’s conclusion made that the top echelon of officers in the Police Department are “on the Right”?
      Is not the City Council, which makes the decision to fire, as in the case of Chief Anderson, DEMOCRATIC?
      Are not the protesters who are after Chief Hooper “on the left”?
      Is Mr. Bothwell saying that ANYONE in Western NC who does not like working for a female or an African American is inarguably “on the right”?

      Mr. Bothwell’s defense of Ms. Hooper is admirable. His tainting of this effort by irrational political commentary is disappointing and distracting.

      • Lulz

        Ever hear of far left wing this and left wing that? It doesn’t exists in their minds. They also believe they are anti-establishment even though they ARE the establishment. And the boogeyman is always the FAR right. Even if it’s the NAACP in this case.

  2. cecil bothwell

    Disappointed in how the paper decided to headline the online version of my op-ed. The principal point of my piece was the way the right manages to enlist the left in its causes. Defense of Hooper is a sidebar. My original title was “Right clicks, Left jumps.”
    I think it’s generally accurate to suppose that racists and misogynists are pretty much “right” leaning. If you don’t like that characterization, then let’s go with “Racists and Misogynists click, Left jumps.”
    My intent, perhaps imperfectly expressed, was to shine a light on how social justice advocates have been played by the racists and misogynists within the APD. Call them left or right as you will. This is what has gone down.

    • Lulz

      LOL cause any woman or black conservative is called the most vile names by the left.

      The only thing you stand for is propping up people cause you actually believe they don’t have the ability to do it themselves.

  3. NFB

    “It seems a real shame when the right wing is able to wag the left wing’s tail.”

    Pretty rich coming from someone who in 2016 was full throttle with letting Fox/Limbaugh/Coulter etc. right wing tail wagging when he bought into the “crooked Hillary” talking points they’ve been spewing out for a quarter of a century. Thus he helped to give us the Trump “administration. SCOTUS justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh will be grateful for the next 40+ years.

    Otherwise, the former Councilman makes some valid points.

    • Lulz

      Too bad your convictions won’t see past the corruption of obtaining a FiSA warrant based on a paid document.

      You don’t suppose Clinton lost because her message was poor? You know when you go into West Virginia and literally tell people you’re going to force them out of a job, that doesn’t get you votes. Do tell me what message does the left have that will actually be a benefit for the country? Let’s see, hate whites, hate working class, hate having a border, hate everything the USA is, hate jobs, hate, hate, hate. That’s all you people do is preach hate. But in doing so all you want is to stuff your pockets with money and control how people live.

      Bothwell’s statement up above about assuming all on the right are racist, bigoted, blah, blah, blah is shows how ignorant he really is. If he’s so concerned about he plight of blacks, he should go back to Chicago where liberals have literally lost control of the situation they created and do something. But his pompous self is in denial of his on hypocrisy. Don’t see too many people getting shot in the south. But the north, with its democrat held hellholes, is literally in chaos.

  4. John Penley

    So Senor Bothwell thinks the video was released illegally to embarrass Chef Hooper and the storm was cooked up by the Asheville Citizen Times. Personally, I think the storm was created by what was on the video and the public had a right, illegal or not, to see it. Does he think there is any possibility at all that the video was released because what was on it was so bad the person who released it did so in the hope that by releasing the video this kind of behavior would not continue ? On another note, I would like to suggest that Mr. Bothwell [Progessive ?] write another op ed about rising rates of gun violence and the shooting death of a twelve year old child and other shootings in low income housing here in Asheville and the failure of both Chief Hooper and Mayor Manheimer to come up with a plan to halt this extreme violence.

  5. don

    The video of the beating was released for one reason and one reason only…. the wheels of so-called administrative oversight by the City of Asheville higher-ups had ground to a halt…. per usual. Anyone embarrassed by the video well deserved the light shone on them and this travesty. Cecil, you’re a philosopher….. try hard not to become another Ayn Rand while you’re at it, okay?

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