Community police meeting turns tense as talk turns to APD bodycam video
Tempers flared at times Wednesday as community members met for the first since a disturbing police bodycam video was released in a story by the Citizen Times last week.
The footage shows an officer punching a man in the head and tasing him while he's on the ground. It happened after the man ran from officers after they warned him about jay walking and tried to detain him.
The Citizens Police Advisory Committee met at the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center. Just as the meeting was getting started, the public quickly took control and began speaking out.
There was frustration and anger as hundreds of people packed the the auditorium.
"The issue is a human rights issue," one person said. "The issue is because we have been beaten down, we have all be obliterated, we have all been talked to like dogs, like trash, we're not valued and we have no voice in this city."
Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper was at the meeting.
"When it's all said and done, just like every time, I have been ready and willing come to the table with whoever wants to do the work that's needed to get us past this," Hooper said.
The chief, when asked if she planned to resign, said she would if it would help the problem.
Another person asked Hooper what would happen to the person who leaked the video. The chief said the APD is not investigating the person responsible for the leak.
Some people, like Buncombe County Commissioner Al Whitesides, asked members of the black community to be more proactive in their local government.
"Since I've been on the county commission, I'm one of the loneliest men in the county," Whitesides said. "I'm there fighting for us, and, when I look out in the audience, where are you."
Others at the meeting were looking for bigger change.
"This is not about police brutality, it's about a system that is brutalizing us all the way forward," another person said. "Y'all have been sorry for 400 years. Why is it that when white people are sorry they come to black folks and black churches and say, 'We're sorry, we didn't mean to,' then you keep doing the same thing over and over and over again."
President of the local Fraternal Order of Police Rondell Lance asked local residents to keep an open mind.
"All I ask of the community is don't judge the rest of those [cops] out there because of Chris Hickman," Lance said. "Chris Hickman is the one that needs to be held at fault."
After the meeting, Asheville City Councilman Keith Young said he saw a lot of passion and outrage in the audience. He said city officials owe the public answers. If the officials can't provide answers, he said they need to be fired.
Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer was also in attendance, but she did not address the public.