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Asheville Citizens Police Advisory Committee Meets As Details Of Beating Video Emerge

(UPDATE 12:20 p.m. Wednesday) - The Asheville city council is calling for an audit of the city police department, following the release of a video last week showing a then-city police officer beating an unarmed black man last August.  In a statement released Wednesday morning, the council wants the audit to 'determine the degree to which structural racism and implicit and explicit bias continue to contribute to the operations and actions of the department and its officers.'  The council wants the audit conducted by a third party, such as the Police Executive Research Forum.  On its website, PERF describes itself as "a police research and policy organization and a provider of management services, technical assistance, and executive-level education to support law enforcement agencies."  The council's Wednesday morning statement can be in full read here.  (Original story continues below)

The Asheville citizen’s police advisory committee meets Wednesday night, a week after video surfaced showing a then-city police officer beating an unarmed black man last August.  That footage – and how police handled their investigation into the officer – is expected to dominate the discussion at the meeting, which starts at 6:30 at the Wesley Grant Sr Southside Center.

The video, which only became public because it was given to the Asheville Citizen-Times which then published it, shows then-city police officer Chris Hickman beating and shocking Johnnie Rush with a stun gun.  Hickman and an officer in training had stopped Rush on Short Coxe Avenue for suspected jaywalking.  Personnel records that Asheville city council voted to make public this week show Hickman turned in his badge and gun the day after incident, but did not resign from the force until January at a meeting where police chief Tammy Hooper was preparing to fire him.  Further review of video from Hickman’s body camera revealed four other instances of him showing ‘discourteous or rude behavior’ to members of the public, which launched an inquiry from the police’s Professional Standards department .  Other delays in investigating Hickman, including that his supervisor did not forward notes of interviews right after the beating incident which included Hickman admitting he hit Rush in the head with a taser, lead to the State Bureau of Investigation declining to look into the matter.  (UPDATE - The Citizen-Times is now reporting the SBI will reconsider whether to open a probe). The SBI is the agency that usually handles investigations of officer misconduct.  The city has set up a hotline for residents to share their thoughts on the video if they’re unable to make Wednesday night’s meeting, with those messages being forwarded to members of the citizens police advisory committee.  That number is 828-259-5900.  Comments will be taken until noon on Wednesday March 7th.

Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.
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