Chapel Hill committee wants investigator to review police raid

mschultz@newsobserver.comJanuary 11, 2012 

— Calling the Chapel Hill town manager’s report “one sided,” a committee voted tonight to seek an independent investigator to examine a November police raid that removed squatters from a vacant building downtown.

The new Community Policing Advisory Board, which the Chapel Hill Town Council asked the review the incident, said it could not make any conclusions without more facts about what happened Nov. 13 at the former Yates Motor Co.

“We will need the council to pay for it. It will not be cheap,” committee member Jessica Smith said of hiring a professional investigator. “How can we make recommendations as to policies and procedures unless we know what actually happened?”

Town Manager Roger Stancil’s report found the police raid, led by a Special Emergency Response Team pointing loaded weapons at unarmed people, “appropriate” given what police knew at the time. The police charged eight people with misdemeanors and found no weapons inside the building.

Committee members said the report spoke only to those affiliated with the town and omitted an encounter between an officer and some of the squatters the morning of the raid.

"You don't have facts from the other side of the coin," member Kevin Hicks said. "Was that an overboard approach to eight individuals in a building that had no weapons? And even if you thought it had weapons, the report does not show what investigation was done (to reach that conclusion). It's a very weak report."

Committee Chairman Ron Bogle said the Town Council needs to act quickly before memories fade and people who were there leave town. “The challenge for us is to determine what actually happened in this community,” he said. “If they want us to do the job they have to give us the tools.”

Smith estimated an investigator might want to talk to as many as 100 witnesses who were at or outside the building that day. She estimated the investigator could cost $15,000.

About 10 people spoke to the committee tonight, most praising the committee's seeking more information.

The committee will review the wording of its request at a special meeting next week and make its request to the Town Council on Jan. 23.

Schultz: 919-932-2003

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