Forty four Asheville, North Carolina police officers have banded together and signed a petition alleging mismanagement, leadership problems and possible corruption against department leaders.
Among other things the petition cites low staffing levels, forced overtime and low morale as contentious issues.
The petition was given to City Manager Gary Jackson and Police Chief William Anderson, Thursday, just days after news broke that officers received internal communication from Anderson saying the department wrote hundreds of bad speeding tickets last year.
An internal review found that about 250 out of 4,500 tickets issued in the last year were written based on speed measurements made with out of date radar guns that no longer comply with current policing standards.
The department’s practices regarding record keeping, tracking of equipment, inspections and inventory were also criticized.
City officials say they are taking the petition seriously. Both Jackson and Anderson said the department is in the midst of changes that should improve operations but some of the petitioning officers’ claims are damning.
A lieutenant has said that Chief Anderson and a captain pulled him out of a meeting with the State Bureau of Investigation, last year, and tried to convince him to lie about a wreck involving Anderson’s son, Chad, who eventually pleaded guilty to charges in the accident.
Both support for and against the petition is being voiced in the Asheville community. A formal request has been sent by State Representative Tim Moffitt to NC Attorney General Roy Cooper, urging him to open an investigation into the claims of the 44 officers.
Influential city ministers however, are standing up for department leaders.
“In my estimation, this is nothing more than an attempt to discredit, railroad and assassinate the character of highly a decorated police officer, “said president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Asheville & Buncombe County and Senior Pastor of Hill Street Baptist Church in Asheville, Rev. Keith Ogden.
Ogden asserts that the petition is simply a plot by a group of “disgruntled employees.”
“I am in receipt of this letter from a ‘so called’ group of concerned citizens alleging leadership failures within the Asheville Police Department… based on the content provided… [the letter] indicates to me that there may be a group of disgruntle employees within APD. I’m very gravely concerned by this continued group that will continue to attack our police Chief of Asheville.”
The 44 petitioning officers comprise about 20 percent of Asheville’s 217 total city police employees.