Events in Ferguson, Missouri, have sparked a national conversation about police procedures, equipment and response to citizens demonstrating in the face of tragedy.
Given these concerns, it is understandable that many may be wondering about the Asheville Police Department’s responsive procedures. Asheville is a city of many opinions, and we at APD are proud of our track record of responding to demonstrations and those who exercise their right of free speech. We take constitutional rights and public safety seriously and approach our response to demonstrations and other events with professionalism and respect. I share this because I want everyone to know that we have a police department worthy of your confidence.
By examining and putting into practice policies that address our officers’ procedures during such events, the Asheville community has over the past decade been an open and safe place for free speech and expression for demonstrators and onlookers alike. Each of our officers is trained in crowd management strategies that allow for the free expression of ideas and protect the safety of the public. These strategies have been evident during the course of several high-profile events, including Moral Monday rallies, open-carry demonstrations and the Occupy Asheville event.
Most recently, concern across the nation has turned to the use of military-style equipment in police departments. Our use of specialized tactical equipment is reserved for operations that require the deployment of highly-trained and likewise specialized Emergency Response Team (ERT) members, as in the two-day standoff on Max Street in January of this year. I emphasize the word “specialized” because these officers only deploy this kind of equipment when there is a direct and real threat to the safety of the public. Deployment of our ERT requires the approval of our supervisors. In the Max Street case, the use of an armored vehicle kept our officers safe as they negotiated the delicate situation at hand and their efforts achieved a successful outcome with no injuries.
APD officers consider ourselves part of the larger community we serve and protect by actively seeking out connections, making sure that we are visible and well known in both the neighborhoods and business districts of Asheville. This outreach means that citizens and officers talk, get to know one another, and assist each other in keeping our city safe.
I believe the concerns of the public are the concerns of the APD, and these conversations are important for us to have in order to grow and remain strong as a community. Just recently, both Sheriff Duncan and I participated in a Use of Force forum, hosted by the Asheville Buncombe Community Relations Council. It is my hope that while we have these conversations, we will look to each other for support.
Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the recent events.
– Asheville Police Chief William Anderson