by Caitlyn Penter, WLOS
ASHEVILLE — There were two major developments at Tuesday night’s Asheville city council meeting — council members unanimously approved a joint resolution for the removal of Confederate monuments and Asheville’s police chief announced sweeping changes to his department.
The developments came after council members Sheneika Smith and Brian Haynes earlier in the day called for an investigation into the way Asheville police handled protests downtown over the last week.
Chief David Zack said his department will undergo complete departmentwide restructuring. He’s also asking for an outside entity to investigate whether his officers’ actions during protests were justified.
Community involvement will be key, Zack said.
“The centerpiece of the entire division is to have all those voices at the table,” Zack said.
Zack announced his 30/60/90 day plan of changes during the council meeting. He said plans include a first-of-its-kind community engagement division, a gun violence reduction strategy and an integrity unit to ensure police are following policy.
Zack went over the department’s current use of force policy. He said when he started his position this year he found that use of force was being under-reported. The council had a long discussion after the presentation.
“The defunding of the APD must begin now,” council member Brian Haynes said.
Vijay Kapoor directed some of his comments to Asheville police officers.
“I am asking you in the next couple of months and the next couple of weeks and the next couple of years to buy into the reforms that Chief Zack talked about,” Kapoor said.
Asheville City Manager Debra Campbell outlined some of the city’s plans, including closing opportunity gaps and working with the community to rename streets that have traces to racism.
“We understand the sense of urgency, and we need to move and we will,” Campbell said.
Before voting unanimously on the joint resolution to remove Confederate monuments, council heard almost an hour of public comments.
Some people agreed with the removal and said the monuments are a symbol of white supremacy and racial trauma.
Others said the monuments should stay because they represent history.
Council member Keith Young responded to those comments.
“The arguments that say the Confederate flag or statues or monuments other displays represent heritage not hate ignores the near universal heritage of African-Americans,” Young said.
The resolution would include the Zebulon B. Vance Memorial, the Robert E. Lee Dixie Highway Col. John Connally marker and a memorial honoring the 60th Regiment of the North Carolina Confederate soldiers.
The resolution will move to the Buncombe County commission.