North Carolina Division
Join Now

Defunding Cops Shortchanges Citizens

Author: Brandon McGaha

N.C. Staff Representative


Asheville, North Carolina, is known for its beautiful mountains, breweries, restaurants, and people. Recently, Asheville has also become known for crime. In June 2020, in the wake of the George Floyd incident, Asheville became the center for the defunding movement in the western mountains of North Carolina. The history of the city officials in Asheville openly opposing law enforcement is well-documented. The relationship among cops, council and citizens has been contentious at best.


A 2014 Asheville Citizen-Times article by Jon Ostendorff[i] addresses the 44 officers who signed a petition of “no confidence” in police Chief William Anderson. They accused Anderson of improperly intervening in an investigation his agency held into a car crash involving Anderson’s son. Anderson publicly cleared his son of wrongdoing when that was not the case. Anderson then was accused of retaliating against officers involved in reporting his actions.


Whistleblowers also brought forward massive issues with the evidence room, which prompted a large-scale investigation by district attorney Ron Moore and outside sources.[ii]  Ultimately, the petition and interactions between the chief and his officers led to Anderson's resignation in December 2014. Anderson’s troubles should have come as no surprise to anyone. A simple Google check revealed a checkered history of problematic leadership from Anderson virtually everywhere he has served. City officials chose Anderson anyway, ignoring other well-qualified candidates without the baggage that Anderson brought with him.


City council members showed their lack of support once again in 2017 following a police encounter with a combative suspect. During this incident, the officer and his trainee attempted to write a citation to a person jay-walking after repeated attempts to warn the suspect failed.  The suspect refused to comply with officers and attempted to flee, forcing officers to try to restrain him.  During the struggle, the man broke free and ran a short distance before one of the officers caught him. A fight ensued whereby the man attempted to grab the officer’s taser. The summarized incident led to widespread negative criticism from city council members, with one member publicly saying that the Asheville Police Department was “structurally racist.” PBA members once again took action and, after several meetings with council members and Mayor Manheimer, the mayor issued a public apology for the statement.


Mayor Esther Manheimer


In 2018, Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams demonstrated his total lack of support for the law enforcement community when he allowed a career criminal to walk on a plea deal on attempted murder of a law enforcement officer. Ronald Patton, a multiple violent offender, walked out of the courtroom with time served and a reduced misdemeanor plea to resisting arrest. Patton was initially arrested for an outstanding warrant and subsequently charged with assault with a deadly weapon while inflicting serious bodily injury and with the intent to kill when he took Officer Matt Metcalf’s taser from him during a fight. Patton then pressed the taser against Metcalf’s head and activated the taser multiple times before another officer could intervene. Not only did the district attorney’s office not consult with Metcalf before the so-called plea negotiation, but they also went on to state to the local media that “officers were okay with the plea arrangement.”[iii] This statement was false. When PBA members, including Metcalf, met with the district attorney regarding the matter, their concerns were ignored.


In 2019, the NCPBA Mountain Chapter objected to efforts by the City of Asheville and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice to restrict officers’ ability to conduct consent searches. The Southern Coalition misrepresented traffic stop information by race and consent searches, to make it appear police officers were improperly targeting minority communities. Chapter President Rick Tullis and NCPBA staff addressed the council on the real reasons for traffic stops and consent searches in these communities. Crime data clearly showed that the calls for service and citizen complaints were directly correlated and proportional to actual encounters of violent crime and drug-related incidents. Eventually, a compromise was reached between the council and the PBA. Then-interim Asheville police Chief R. White included language in a new written consent search policy that allowed officers the opportunity to defer from the policy when officers had reasonable grounds for conducting such search pursuant to existing constitutional and decisional law. While PBA believes such a policy remained unnecessary and counterproductive both to the officers and potential defendants, the fact that PBA representatives were able to reach a compromise with executive staff and the city council at that time was a positive step forward.


On June 29, 2020, district attorney Todd Williams once again demonstrated his disdain for law enforcement when he improperly brought a criminal charge against Senior Officer Anthony Sorangelo. In February 2020, Sorangelo was attempting to arrest an impaired assaultive suspect. As officers were trying to place the handcuffed suspect in the back of a cruiser, the suspect got onto his back and began kicking Sorangelo in the groin. Sorangelo delivered one effective strike to the suspect, gaining compliance.  PBA staff and legal counsel advised the department and district attorney Todd Williams it was not a criminal matter. The force used was within departmental standards, policy, procedure, law, and in keeping with the officer’s training.