One of the commitments Cecil made when he was elected to Council in 2009 was to advance a Civil Liberties Resolution that would make clear Asheville’s commitment to preserving the rights of its citizens. This followed from efforts around the country by other municipalities to do the same. On October 22, 2013, the Asheville City Council unanimously approved the resolution.
Why a resolution? Like many other concerned citizens, Cecil had been alarmed at the erosion of protection of citizens from government intrusion following 911. He believes that reasonable security can be achieved without a Big Brother government intruding into the personal lives of law-abiding citizens. The unauthorized wiretaps employed by the Bush administration, the creation of a Department of Homeland Security, the warrantless searches, and even incarceration of citizens based on vague suspicion are not hallmarks of a free society.
Furthermore, the concept that “driving while black” or “driving while brown” result in police harassment are quite familiar to many Americans, and those who participate in political protests or hold certain religious beliefs often feel that they are targeted, though their actions are entirely legal. Police Chiefs around the country insist that they want citizens to trust them and to be willing to report crimes in order to keep communities safer. A great majority of city police chiefs do not want to participate in federal immigration enforcement because they want to engender trust that they are here to protect and serve.
Shortly after his election in 2009, Cecil convened interfaith discussion groups with representatives from Christian churches, Jewish synagogues, Islamic mosques, Unitarian Universalist congregations, and others, to discuss a resolution. He held a series of meetings with representatives of Asheville’s Latino population, including Nuestro Centro and COLA, and met with homeless advocates. A draft resolution was presented to Police Chief Bill Hogan in the winter of 2011, who tentatively approved the document. Problems with the APD evidence room led to Chief Hogan’s departure, and the City’s search for a new Chief.
In the summer of 2012, Police Chief William Anderson offered tentative approval of the idea, pending a more comprehensive review. The resolution was considered in October by the Public Safety Committee, which Cecil chairs. Suggestions for amendments were raised, and Cecil met again with interested participants. A revised version was approved by the PSC in June 2013, and went to the full Council in October.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 23, 2013
Asheville City Council passes Civil Liberties Resolution proposed by Bothwell
Asheville, NC— Asheville City Council passed a resolution last night that City Councilmember Cecil Bothwell has been working to pass since he was first elected in 2009. Bothwell’s proposal, the Civil Liberties Resolution, calls for protecting civil liberties and strengthening community-police relations by adopting a policy that prohibits discrimination and profiling based on race, immigration status, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, ethnic origin, gender, religious or political affiliation, and homed or homeless status. The resolution passed by a unanimous vote.
“When I first began working on drafting a civil liberties resolution for Asheville, I met with homeless advocates, with interfaith discussion groups, with representatives of Asheville’s Latino community, and with many other groups and community leaders in the area,” Bothwell said. “As a result, we were able to draft a resolution that has been endorsed by numerous group and that is going to be very beneficial to the city of Asheville as a whole.”
In addition to guaranteeing civil liberties and equal protection under the law, the Civil Liberties Resolution also protects residents and businesses who are not under criminal investigation from having information about their social, political, or religious views and activities collected, maintained, or distributed by City officials. Further, the resolution seeks to mend relations between the police force and immigrant community by excusing local police force from the responsibilities of federal immigration officials. Bothwell presented the resolution to City Council’s Public Safety Committee in April, and it was approved by the committee in June.
Prior to coming to a vote on City Council, the resolution was endorsed by the leaders and representatives of several civil liberties organizations, including leaders of Stand Against Racism; Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality; Sarah Nunez and the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council; the WNC ACLU; representatives of Coalicion de Organizaciones Latino-Americanas; Rev. Amy Cantrell of the Beloved Community; Rabbi Rob Cabelli,formerly of Beth Israel Synagogue; the Bill of Rights Defense Committee; Occupy Asheville; Executive Director Lael Gray of the Jewish Community Center; Rev. Tyrone Greenlee of Christians for a United Community; and the Asheville Homeless Network.
CITY OF ASHEVILLE
CIVIL LIBERTIES RESOLUTION
WHEREAS: The City of Asheville has long aspired to protect civil liberties and provide equal protection under the law to all persons in the city which includes a diverse population of many races, religions, national and ethnic origin, including immigrants, tourists and students—whose contributions to the community’s economy, culture and civic character are vast and important, and affirms its strong support for the fundamental constitutional rights of every person and recognizes that the preservation of civil liberties is essential to the well-being of a democratic society; and
WHEREAS: The Chief of Police of the City of Asheville has implemented new community policing practices that seek to reframe and improve the relationship between law enforcement officers and the public; and
WHEREAS: The City of Asheville opposes measures that single out individuals within our diverse population for legal scrutiny or enforcement activity based on race, skin color, national or ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, religious or political opinion or activity, immigration status; or homed or homeless status, and
WHEREAS: The City of Asheville opposes any efforts to transfer federal immigration responsibility to state and local officials, since these proposals tax our already overburdened police department and damage relationships with immigrant communities; and
WHEREAS: The City of Asheville believes that there is no inherent conflict between national security and the preservation of liberty but that Americans can be both safe and free; and
WHEREAS: The City of Asheville wishes to play a leading role in the protection of civil liberties and to consistently promote tolerance and respect for all persons, and recognizes that a number of other jurisdictions in North Carolina and in the United States have enacted policies or laws to make clear their protection of the civil liberties of a diverse population.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY OF ASHEVILLE that:
Section 1. The City of Asheville upholds the constitutional rights and civil liberties of any and all persons and it remains the policy of the City of Asheville to protect against discrimination on the basis of race, skin color, national or ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability,immigration status, religious or political opinion or activity, or homed or homeless status.
Section 2. City of Asheville officers and employees reject profiling of any group within our diverse population as a factor in selecting individuals, setting up check points or selecting areas of town to subject to investigatory activities.
Section 3. In accordance with Asheville Police Department policy, if officers stop a driver of a motor vehicle who cannot produce a valid operator’s license and a computer check shows the driver has no license issuance information, a citation is sufficient enforcement action.
Section 4. City of Asheville employees do not and shall not collect, maintain or disseminate information of any individual, association, organization, corporation, business or partnershipbased solely on political, religious or social views, associations or activities, unless said information is directly related to an investigation of criminal conduct.
Section 5. In the absence of state, interstate or international criminal or national security investigations, the City of Asheville does not actively participate in the enforcement of federal immigration law.
BE IT ALSO RESOLVED that the provisions of this Resolution are not intended to protect criminal activity on the part of any person but are intended to encourage trust in the Asheville Police Department and to encourage reporting of criminal activity to that department by all members of the community.
BE IT ALSO RESOLVED that the provisions of this Resolution shall be severable, and if any provision of this Resolution is declared unconstitutional by a court of competent jurisdiction, the validity of the remainder shall not be affected.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Resolution shall be forwarded to all City of Asheville law enforcement agencies and to every department, agency, commission, officer and employee of the City and to our local, state and federal legislative delegations on behalf of the residents of the City of Asheville.