Asheville police chief Tammy Hooper says the department is in a better place than it was three years ago when she arrived. It's one of many reasons why Hooper gave her resignation this week.
Hooper intended to resign earlier this year, going so far as give notice in February to then Asheville city manager Gary Jackson. It was at the end of that month that video was leaked to and then published by the Asheville Citizen-Times showing then-Asheville police officer Chris Hickman beating and choking an unarmed black pedestrian. Hickman ended up facing criminal charges, and Jackson was ousted as city manager. Hooper herself faced heavy criticism too, but maintained the support of a majority of city council and decided to stay on until a new city manager was hired. Hooper tells BPR the Hickman case showed that some of the reforms she pushed for in her time as chief have stuck and will do so after she leaves.
“How do we make these things stick? We make them stick by having written policies," Hooper says. "In Hickman’s case, he is no longer a police officer and never will be again. He has been charged criminally with a felony. That’s a pretty high level of accountability that you would expect from such an egregious situation.”
Hooper’s last day as chief will be January 2nd. Deputy chief Wade Wood will serve as interim chief until a new one is selected.
In her interview with BPR's Matt Bush that you can listen to above, Hooper touched on several other topics about three and a half year tenure in Asheville - including how she feels the relationship between the police department and Asheville's African-American community has evolved during her time as chief, whether de-escalation training is standard or not in policing, and why she believes traffic and traffic safety may be the biggest policing issue the next chief of Asheville will face.