Surveillance nation: Asheville PD's monitoring of advocacy groups

So much for being the most progressive city in NC:

Asheville Police Department Chief Tammy Hooper authorized the monitoring of Black Lives Matter and Showing Up for Racial Justice in response to what she said were threats to officers after the shooting of Jai "Jerry" Williams by a white police sergeant.

The groups' organizers said they are unaware of any threats made by their members to harm police. Their groups work to raise awareness about racism and get more equitable treatment for minorities, they said. City Council members appear to have been briefed on the operation sometime after March 2018, according to statements from the elected officials and police. APD revealed the operation to the Citizen Times in May after questioning.

You know what? Between that shooting and the brutal beating of a black man for jaywalking, it is blatantly obvious any sort of monitoring or surveillance that needs to be carried out should be directed at the Police Department itself, not those citizens trying to stop such fascist behavior. And as far as this rationalization:

Mayor Esther Manheimer said City Council isn't allowed by the city charter to get involved in day-to-day police operations and that it's APD's job to "devise legal strategies" to keep the community safe.

"It would be my expectation that the department utilize information gathering practices, typical of any police department, that keep them one step ahead of any potential danger to our community," Manheimer said Monday, when asked for her reaction to the operation.

Police officials, however, have declined to answer most of the Citizen Times' questions about the operation, including whether officers monitored the organizations openly or in an undercover fashion. They also have refused to detail the threats they received.

It's apparent the Asheville Police Department doesn't feel the need to provide any answers to the public at-large about this program, which is bad enough on its own. But when those whom the public have chosen to lead the government use administrative confusion as an excuse to dodge responsibility, that "bad" becomes dangerous.

Just the fact it took a year and a half before the Asheville PD "briefed" the City Council on this operation should raise the hell out of some eyebrows. And that also brings up a question that has two very bad answers: When did the Police Chief "brief" the City Manager? If it was from the very beginning, and said Manager deemed it not necessary to pass along to elected officials, that's a pretty big problem on its own. By the same token, if the Police Chief didn't feel the need to advise the City Manager she was dedicating resources to track citizens' social media activities, that's quite possibly an even bigger management fail. And by "management fail," I also mean failure of Democracy. Non-elected officials operating autonomously with no guidance or oversight from duly elected government.

But before somebody points to the Charter like the Mayor did, there is actually a solution built into that controlling document:

The council shall appoint a city manager, who shall be the chief executive officer of the city. The manager shall be chosen by the council solely on the basis of his executive and administrative qualifications and need not, when appointed, be a resident of the city or state. The manager shall be appointed for an indefinite term and shall be removable at the pleasure of the council. No member of the council shall, during the time for which elected, be chosen city manager. Before the manager may be removed by the council he shall, if he so demands, be given a written statement of the reasons alleged for his removal and given the right to be heard thereon at a public meeting of the council prior to the final vote on the question of his removal. Pending and during such hearing, the council may suspend the manager from office. The action of the council in suspending or removing the manager shall be final, it being the intention of this Charter to vest all authority and fix all responsibility for such suspension or removal in the council. In case of the absence or disability of the manager, the council may designate some qualified person, not a member of the council, to perform the duties of the office during such absence or disability.

Understand, I'm not advocating for the removal of the Manager, or even the Police Chief. But I am advocating for more responsibility from and strengthening the integrity of those who have been chosen by the people to lead their City's government. Without that, things can fall apart, and civil rights are usually the first casualties in that crisis.

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