A former police officer in North Carolina’s Asheville Police Department (APD) both admonished and apologized to the community he served in a heartfelt resignation letter published last week in the local newspaper.
Justin Wilson, who served as a community resource officer for 10 years with APD, explained in an Aug. 21 email sent to neighborhood groups he worked with that he was moving to Colorado to begin a new career because his law enforcement job “has taken a toll on my personal life,” the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.
Wilson also expressed regret for not having offered his community “more safety and protection” but maintained that police are being expected to stem the tide of social problems that can only be solved by “strong communities.” He further urged Asheville residents to remember that his fellow police officers, who he said “are good people with good hearts,” are confronted with real evil that is “not within our capacity” to curb entirely.
His full letter reads:
I wanted to write to a few of you who I have had connections with over the past few years to let you know that I am resigning from APD. I’m headed out to Colorado to start a new career. Being a cop has been very difficult for me. It has taken a toll on my personal life. I cannot begin to explain the complexities of it to someone who has not been involved in it. I wish I could. I’m blessed to exit this job with only emotional scars.
I truly wish I could have offered you more safety and protection. My time as a CRO has been a constant balance of defending APD, and acknowledging the short falls of APD. I tried my best to be transparent and honest with you all. I’ve come to the conclusion that APD is tasked with stopping societal issues, and disorder, but it is not within our capacity. We can only put a bandaid on these issues. Strong communities are the real remedy.
I want to sincerely thank you for your patiences, understanding, and support of APD. Officers require your support to function properly (during both the good and bad times).
After ten years at APD, I can say confidently that APD officers are good people with good hearts. Evil is real. Evil exists in Asheville, officers are surrounded by it, and they do their best with what they have. Please remember that.
According to the Citizen-Times, resignations from APD have surged since June 1, with 31 officers having called it quits in what Police Chief David Zack described as an “unprecedented” trend. For a force of 238, such a number, which does not take retirements into account, equates to one in 10 sworn officers throwing in the towel.
Asheville, a very liberal city with a population of about 90,000 in the otherwise mostly conservative western part of North Carolina, has been roiled with turmoil over the summer. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, APD officers decked out in riot gear engaged in an hours-long standoff with protesters on one of the major thoroughfares leading into the city, according to the Citizen-Times.
Asheville also made headlines in July when their city council approved a resolution in favor of “community reparations” for its black citizens. As The Daily Wire reported, the resolution does not offer direct payments but will instead seek to rectify historical disparities among the city’s black community with investment-based solutions. In a July 30 vote, the city also voted to limit the APD’s budget amid calls from activists demanding an immediate 50% cut to the department’s funding.
Asheville is the most populous city in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, which has drawn national attention for its congressional race between Democrat Moe Davis, a retired Air Force colonel, and Madison Cawthorn, a 25-year-old paraplegic who beat a Trump-backed candidate during a runoff election and spoke at the Republican National Convention.
The Davis and Cawthorn campaigns offered differing views to The Daily Wire on Wilson’s resignation and the larger issues regarding the city’s hemorrhaging police force. The Davis campaign didn’t want to speak to Wilson’s situation specifically because “he has said it was a personal decision and did not elaborate” but added that it was “too soon to know all of the reasons for the recent departures and whether this is temporary or a trend.”
The Davis campaign continued:
But we can acknowledge that this is a moment of reckoning and transition in our country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which led to nationwide protests and conflicts with police. Col. Davis has called for reform and advocated for a re-imagining of the role of policing in this country. For example, issues such as drug overdoses are best handled via healthcare, not police.
More than anything, this moment calls for leaders who can work to unite our deeply divided country. That is our best path forward.
A spokesman for the Cawthorn campaign pointed out that he has been “endorsed by more than a dozen sheriffs and law enforcement groups because he understands that with very few exceptions law enforcement officers are noble, hard-working Americans who risk their lives every day to keep us safe. In fact, no one was more appalled by George Floyd’s killing than law enforcement officers who have dedicated their lives to protecting our basic rights and liberties.”
Cawthorn’s campaign went on to urge his opponent to apologize to law enforcement because of “his barbaric calls for violence,” referencing unsurfaced tweets that slammed President Donald Trump and his supporters in violent and vulgar ways. The campaign continued:
Davis’ rationalization of his rhetoric (he believes he can say such things because he has a “D” next to his name) is a dangerous appeal to the political tribalism Cawthorn condemned in his convention speech. Davis likes to say that not all Republicans are Nazis, but all Nazis are Republicans. Someone with Davis’ education should know better. Dehumanizing political opponents is Germany circa 1930 and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Davis should unequivocally apologize for not just his rhetoric but the rationalization upon which it is based.