The 90-day plan for Asheville Police Department reforms

Photo by Warren LeMay

On Tuesday, Asheville Police Department Chief David Zack issued a three-part, 90-day plan to reform the police department. The announcement comes after weeks of criticism about how the department handled crowds of protestors, and is also a response to the 2017 Johnnie Rush incident, which resulted in the resignation of former Police Chief Tammy Hooper. Zack started the job in Feb. 

Here’s the scoop on the plan –

Within 30 days

  • Revaluate the APD’s use of force policy, last amended in 2018 with help from the Community Police Policy Work Group. The current definition of “use of force” will be expanded. Police Chief David Zack said that officers had failed in the past to accurately report when they used force. According to APD’s 2019 Professional Standards Report, use of force incidents include firearms, tear gas or pepper balls, batons, stun guns + physical force
  • Identify and address issues early before they become a problem. 
  • The Drug Suppression Unit will be abolished to move focus from low-level drug crimes to violent + property crime.
  • The department will seek a partnership with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to reduce gun violence.

Within 60 days

  • Police department promotions will be restructured and shifted to be based on merit.
  • An independent monitor will be put in place to conduct after action reports.
  • A department liaison will be put in place to work with the District Attorney’s office to identify cases that don’t meet standards for interrogation, search + seizure, warrant application, and evidence collection/storage.
  • The community will have the ability to anonymously report officer misconduct and crime.

90 days and beyond

  • A fully staffed Community Engagement Division will be in place to respond to issues including neighborhood quality of life issues, substance abuse, homelessness + more. 
  • The new division will include: a homeless outreach team, a mental health addiction coordinator, and an integrity unit to make sure officers are following policies and procedures (as well as monitoring customer satisfaction surveys, which will be launched soon). This division will also implement a gun violence reduction strategy, working with groups at high risk for gun violence to communicate risks and offer services + support. 

Zack’s presentation also notes that the reforms outlined in the “8 Can’t Wait Campaign” (including banning chokeholds + strangleholds, requiring warning before shooting, and requiring de-escalation) are already in place in the department. Note: The people behind 8 Can’t Wait released a statement this week apologizing for distracting from defunding and abolition movements.

City Council’s Public Safety Committee has asked City Manager Debra Campbell to call for an investigation into use of force during the protests

Check out the full presentation from the APD, including community + council goals.