Leading A Police Department Under Fire: A Conversation With Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper

Apr 13, 2018

Chief Tammy Hooper has overseen the Asheville Police Department since 2015. She joined The State of Things to talk about her department's handling of a 2017 incident in which a white former city police officer beat a black pedestrian.
Credit Amanda Magnus

In late February, leaked bodycam footage of a white Asheville police officer beating a black pedestrian went viral, and the city is still reeling. The footage captured an incident that took place Aug. 24, 2017 when former Asheville Police Officer Chris Hickman confronted city resident Johnnie Jermaine Rush over alleged jaywalking and trespassing. Footage shows Hickman beat, choked, punched and stunned Rush.

The former officer faces charges of felony assault and the FBI is currently investigating the incident. Meanwhile the city has experienced fallout of its own: in March the city council voted unanimously to dismiss City Manager Gary Jackson, and many other city and county officials are still feeling the heat. Among them is Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper who has led the department since July 2015. Reports show that from 2016-2017, the department’s use of force has dramatically decreased, and the amount of citizen complaints has gone down. But some argue that last summer’s incident undermined trust between her department and the African-American community, in particular.

When we have incidents like this, it really sets us back on what we've tried to build. We basically have to start over and keep going. As long as I am here, that's my goal.- Chief Tammy Hooper

Host Frank Stasio talks with Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper about last summer’s incident, the fallout, and her ongoing efforts to improve police tactics.

Watch our conversation with Chief Hooper: