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City Council OKs police inquiry; APD chief plans overhaul
Monday, 15 June 2020 16:23

From Staff Reports 

Members of Asheville City Council’s public safety committee on May 9 received council’s approval to launch a probe into the police handling of recent protests over the death of black Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of police.

Brian Haynes and Sheneika Smith, a majority of the three-member committee, issued a formal request, asking City Manager Debra Campbell look into police “tear-gassing of peaceful protesters and the destruction of a medic tent that occurred June 2.”

Meanwhile, city Police Chief David Zack told council on May 9 that he is planning a major overhaul of the department, rolling out a 30-60-90-day plan for action and change. Each benchmark comes with promises from Zack.

“Haynes, the chair of the committee, and Smith, one of two black council members, said the probe should include police body camera footage and the name of the officer who ordered the destruction of a medic tent,” the Asheville Citizen Times reported.

“Video and stories of the destruction of a water and medic station went viral, drawing international attention and condemnation. 

“Asheville Police Department Chief David Zack at first defended officers’ actions, saying water bottles had been used as projectiles against police and protesters. But following Mayor Esther Manheimer’s June 4 condemnation of the incident, Zack apologized, calling it embarrassing and saying he was ‘truly sorry.’”

The council members’ inquiry request reportedly had been issued May 9 and that Haynes and Smith agreed to immediately make it public. 

The ACT story added, “Haynes said they did not consult with the third committee member, Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler, because they wanted to act quickly and only needed a majority to start the inquiry.

“Wisler, who in the past has split with Haynes and Smith over policing issues, told the Citizen Times she supported ‘an in-depth investigation and report’ and that she was ‘a little shocked’ she had not been consulted.”

The probe should be completed and presented at the next full council meeting, scheduled for June 23, Haynes and Smith said.

Further, the ACT noted, “Zack, who was hired Feb. 4 after a career in Cheektowaga, N.Y,, spoke to the council for the first time during a June 9 public meeting where he explained far-ranging plans to overhaul APD. Zack said he had contacted ‘law enforcement transparency engagement advisers’ shortly after being hired “to use throughout my tenure here to keep the public better informed during principal critical incidents such as this.”

The advisers would start an investigation as soon as June 9 into the APD’s handling of the downtown protests, Zack told council.

“Haynes and Smith, one of two black council members, did not respond to questions June 10 about whether Campbell had agreed to start the inquiry and what they thought of the probe initiated by Zack,” the ACT reported.



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