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Protests allege police brutality targets blacks
Tuesday, 06 January 2015 16:21

From Staff Reports

At least seven protest rallies have been held in the past month or so across Buncombe County over alleged police brutality targeting blacks.

 The protests were triggered by two cases:

• A Ferguson, Mo., grand jury decision on Aug. 9 not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old who reportedly got into a struggle with Wilson after allegedly robbing a convenience store.

• A New York City grand jury decision on Dec. 3 not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, who was  unarmed and allegedly selling loose cigarettes — and reportedly was uncooperative with officers.

In both cases, the officers were white and the two men killed were black. In Wilson’s case, he said he felt his life was in danger.

During some of the Buncombe protests, demonstrators held pictures of Reynolds High football player A.J. Marion, who was killed in 2013 by an Asheville police officer following a residential break-in, report of a gunshot and ensuing foot chase.

As was the case with Brown and Garner, Marion was black and unarmed and the white officer was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

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2 conservatives catch flak from their own base
Tuesday, 06 January 2015 16:19

From Staff Reports

Two local conservatives said in mid-December that some of their support base was angered by the cancellation of their pro-police rally, planned for Dec. 11, after activists from the LBGTQ community announced that they would hold a counter-protest simulaneously nearby.

“I had been blessed with my fill of conservative armchair quarterbacks critiquing our actions without any understanding of the circumstance,” Dr. Carl Mumpower, one of the organizers (along with Chad Nesbitt), said. “At this point, my patience with the selective efforts and principles of Asheville’s conservative community are worn a bit thin.

“It is telling that most every voice of criticism has stepped over our final request — sending a note of thanks to their local law enforcement agency. Had conservative stalwarts embraced that mission, over trying to perfect our efforts, the impact for our police could have been far more significant and less risky than a 30-minute rally amidst a parade of lesbians with signs saying, ‘F--k the police.’”

Meanwhile, Nesbitt said, “The decision to cancel was solely based on safety concerns of the police officers’ families. After we announced that we were having the rally the gay anarchists threatened to spit and instigate violence at the rally.

“Children and elderly family members of police officers were to be at our rally. There was no way we were going to allow children to be in danger. We did the right thing.”

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Interim APD chief named; sees no crisis
Tuesday, 06 January 2015 16:16

From Staff Reports

Asheville’s soon-to-be interim Police Chief Steve Belcher said Dec. 18 that he does not see the Asheville Police Department being in crisis, despite nearly one in four officers having signed a petition saying they had no faith in department leadership.

Belcher, who will come on as Asheville’s interim chief Jan. 20, recently served as interim chief in Bell, Calif., after the former chief there was fired amid a corruption case that ended this year with prison sentences for some elected officials.

Bell was absolutely facing a crisis, Belcher said.

“It’s very different,” he told local news media, referring to Asheville’s situation.

Belcher will temporarily replace former Chief William Anderson, who retired in December following the presentation of the officers’ petition. The state Department of Justice also started a standards inquiry at the department and is looking into an internal affairs review being conducted by city police.

Belcher will be paid the equivalent of an annual salary of $145,486. He will likely get half of that because his employment should last six months, according to his contract. He will also get $3,400 in relocation expenses, $1,000 a month for housing and use of a city vehicle.

He said in general he would be “aiming the ship in the right direction.

“There are expectations of the community, of political leaders, of employees and the media itself,” Belcher said. “You have to make sure you have a good understanding of those expections and make sure to meld those together, so there is a smooth transition for the person who is going to take over.”

Deputy Chief Wade Wood will lead the department until Belcher starts Jan. 19.

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