Civic

Fraternal Order of Police President Wants Adult Conversation about Policing

Asheville – Asheville City Police will no longer respond to some crimes, according to Christina Hallingse who broke the news in a press release last week.

Asheville, NC (June 2, 2021): The Asheville Police Department (APD) has lost 84 officers since January 1, 2020. As a result of the staffing crisis, several changes in officer response will go into effect immediately in order to improve response times for emergency calls made to 9-1-1. 

APD officers will no longer respond to the following types of crimes:

Theft under $1,000 where there is no suspect information (this does not include stolen vehicles or guns)

Theft from a vehicle where there is no suspect information

Minimal damage and/or graffiti to property where there is no suspect information

Non-life threatening harassing phone calls (does not include incidents that are related to domestic violence and/or stalking) 

Fraud, scams, or identity theft

Simple assaults that are reported after they have occurred

Reports that do not require immediate police actions and/or enforcement (information only reports) 

Funeral escorts

Lost/found property

Trespassing where the property owner does not want to press charges

Noise complaints made during normal business hours and after-hours may have a significant delay in response.

Victims of these crimes can use the Police to Citizen online reporting tool [https://ashevillepd.policetocitizen.com/ReportIncident] to file a police report. Individuals who do not have access to online reporting can call (828) 252-1110 to have an officer respond when they are available. This may result in a significant delay in response.

The announcement begs the question, What’s right with this picture?’ It is now legal to break and enter and steal $999 from as many places as one wishes, so long as one has no witnesses. One may also, without recrimination, steal somebody’s phone and threaten to apply lethal force, paint small pictures and smash or burn small items in somebody else’s yard. The victim cannot even have access to a police social worker to skill him/her in getting over it.

On the bright side, this move provides an opportunity for enterprising capitalists with seed money to launch, for example, private funeral escorts, after paying lawyers and lobbyists to establish licensure; and it should create jobs for private investigators and private security firms. More stable communities might be able to run their own, trusty lost-and-founds. But that leaves the poorer communities more vulnerable to abuse than before. Less than $1,000 in stolen property won’t mean as much to a millionaire as the two or three paychecks it might represent for wage slaves and pensioners. Surely, the city’s equity lens was not blind to this. Was this some kind of psyop to get friends and family to peer-pressure Antifa into “sitting down”?

Rondell Lance, president of the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, who has a reputation for speaking frankly and always being ready to take one on the chin to back the blue, guessed correctly the purpose of this reporter’s phone call. But he said he couldn’t guess what the motive was behind the APD’s current priorities.

Is It Pay?

Regardless of which services were scrapped, the APD had to triage priorities. The department isn’t like the city council, with the liberty to vision big with strategic priorities and then raise taxes to pay for it all. They’re having to choose among life-and-death priorities and make do with allocations from what, for all intents and purposes, is an anti-police city council. For the record, the APD made regular headlines for being short-handed since Tammy Hooper was chief, which was well before the catalyzing George Floyd incident and before Antifa was a household word.

Now, with record numbers leaving the force and more expected to follow suit, the city is leaning toward spending two million more to bring APD to pay up to market rates and fund all the overtime officers are putting in with 12-hour shifts. In a lot of industries, 12-hour shifts might be fine, but police officers not only must stay vigilant and always prepared to intervene in life-threatening situations; they must now do so while bodycams are recording their every move. Members of the public are quick to post online their reactions but not the provocations, and the rules and techniques they’ve been trained to follow are out the window. Instead of protecting innocents, national narratives demand they counsel the perpetrators in patience. What’s more, Lance described the current 12-hour shifts as “non-stop calls.”

The APD is so stretched, there is no time for proactive policing. Lance recalled patrolling downtown with five to six others on a bicycle, getting to know the local characters, noticing when a door was opened at an unusual time, and just chatting with elderly people who trusted the police to explain things to them. Now, one hardly ever sees an officer downtown. Citizens, as well as tourists, he said, expect these friendly, neighborhood courtesies, as well as protection, in return for the taxes they pay.

While support of pay increases, Lance said the problem is not the money. He knows officers who left Asheville. Some quit policing, some took a 6% pay cut in neighboring counties, and others were willing to shoulder the costs of relocating to the other side of the state. These officers, he said, tell him how much nicer it is to work for a community and a government body that appreciates their work, to be out from under the microscope of a community that will cause them to lose their jobs even if they go by the book and do exactly what they’re trained to do.

Who Dun It?

Lance said the problem with morale and attrition in the stairs meeting room.

Project Foes’ Concerns

The rezoning could be resubmitted again, such as in upcoming years if different commissioners are elected who seem more favorable to it. Project foe Connie Marie Harrison-Bressler predicted “he will reapply when he feels he can win” with enough commissioner votes.

Other project opponents also commented on the Friends of East Flat Rock (FOEFR) Facebook home page. Some stated the site was cleared, causing run-off woes for nearby properties.

They express concern site preparation might continue — whether to prepare it for sale for another use or to swiftly build the asphalt plant even without rezoning authorization. They suggested that if the asphalt facility went up unauthorized, county fines might not deter enough and it might take legal action by the county and/or the citizens’ group to try to stop its completion or to shut it down.

Thus, donations will still be sought to build up a legal fund, FOEFR co-founder Michelle Tennant Nicholson indicated. She cautioned on the group’s Facebook page that “we don’t know if or when Jeff Shipman will reapply” for rezoning, and authorized construction of the facility. She also said that “naturally, we will remain united should the asphalt plant choose to reapply again.”

Jim Kilpatrick posted on the FOEFR Facebook page about both financial and emotional costs of dealing with a possible major industry nearby, and about no end necessarily for periodic renewal of rezoning requests for the asphalt project. He wrote the developer “has held this community hostage for a year now.  People can’t sell their properties because no one is going to buy them with the prospect of an asphalt plant going in. This is not fair…”

Kilpatrick calls on commissioners to revise county regulations if needed, to put a limit on rezoning requests for a tract. “Stop this nonsense of pulling the permit at the last minute, and reapplying every six months!”

Brett Rice posted not opposition to an asphalt mixing plant, but instead that “hopefully he’ll build it in a more industrialized area locally.”

Opponents’ Celebration

Friends of East Flat Rock leader Mrs. Nicholson celebrated, on Facebook (“We’ve won!”) and in press releases. She thanked commissioners, the Planning Board — which twice recommended against the rezoning — and planning staff for “endless hours receiving emails, letters and phone calls.” She noted strength in numbers of 13,353 people who signed a petition in the past year, since June 1, 2020, when first learning of the rezoning application. She thanked donors to the group, and media coverage.

Her gratitude is on behalf of “all the neighbors who signed our petition and have worked tirelessly to fight this asphalt plant rezoning property next door to our churches, schools, homes, and businesses.”

Nicholson termed the rezoning decision a choice of  “what’s best for all of us, not just one of us. She said the site is merely 1,100 feet from her house. She noted that Greene River Game Lands are also nearby.

Looking ahead, she said, “since we defeated the asphalt plant twice, Friends of East Flat Rock will now serve as a volunteer group to leverage resources for East Flat Rock and its rich history and opportunities for growth in Henderson County.”

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