Asheville police chief's resignation met with mixed reactions

    Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper has announced her resignation from the department, effective Jan. 2, 2019. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

    Some members of the African-American community think Asheville police chief Tammy Hooper should have stepped down months ago, citing her handling of the Johnnie Rush case.

    But one city council member said Hooper was an excellent chief who made many improvements to the department.

    "She (Hooper) inherited a department that was in crisis and she really reformed it," councilman Vijay Kapoor said.

    But the Rush case sparked outrage across the city.

    Police bodycam video leaked in March 2018 shows former Asheville police officer Chris Hickman beating and tasing Rush during an August 2017 arrest.

    Hooper oversaw an internal investigation that was kept from the public for months. Hickman was not immediately relieved of his duties. He was taken off the streets but remained in a desk job while the investigation continued. Hickman resigned, Hooper said, just days before she was about to fire him.

    Many wonder if the video had the not been leaked to the media if the Rush case would have come to light.

    Former NAACP chapter president John Hayes was not happy with how Hooper handled the case and thinks city leaders should have pushed the chief out months ago.

    "My thing is, why did it take so long?" Hayes asked. "Where is the example of leadership when you're not truthful with the evidence coming forth?"

    But Kapoor said Hooper did nothing wrong.

    "What city council did was we brought in an independent investigation of the handling of that. They found APD, specifically chief Hooper, acted appropriately," Kapoor said.

    Fraternal Order of Police president Rondell Lance also strongly backs Hooper, saying she has had officers' backs during what he considers a trying time.

    "The environment here in Asheville she's been through, a lot of people surprised she stayed this long, because she's been accused of things that's not true," Lance said.

    Hayes is also critical of the city's decision to pay Hooper $118,000.

    The separation contract also released by the city shows Hooper will make an additional $118,000 for 75 hours of consulting work after her final day on the job. Hayes, upon hearing this information, said he had one question -- “Why?”

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