By Leslee Kulba
Editor’s note: This is part 2 of this interview with Lance. Part 1 ran in last week’s paper.
Asheville – Following the discussion in Part I of this article, the Tribune asked Rondell Lance, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police if he could share any information on the current wave of anarchist rioting.
Lance told of working the Democratic National Convention in 2012 in Charlotte and receiving a week of training on how to deal with what would now call itself Antifa. He said, despite the anarchist visage, the group has professional organizers and directors, and they provide training in civil unrest. They call local bondsmen ahead of staged riots to make sure they’ll be adequately staffed. One technique, among many, is to dispatch professional photographers to take pictures of people who oppose them in order to create “vulgar” memes for social media. Lance said it happened to two of his friends.
Lance said every May the same group comes to town just to break windows. “It has nothing to do with race and harmony. They’re anarchists, and they want to disrupt and do away with law and order. They’re riding the coattails of Black Lives Matter. What’s sad is our leaders cater to them and give in to them when they’re bent on destroying.”
On the Subject of Economic Justice –
Lance acknowledged the disadvantages into which black children are born and said there was so much more civic leadership could be doing. He asked if public schools are putting children of color at a disadvantage, which they are, why there were no cries to defund the schools. Why is nobody asking county commissioners to address the achievement gap with as much strategic action? One officer doing something “terribly wrong” in Minnesota has subjected all law enforcement agencies nationwide to micromanagement. Lance asked why the same thing doesn’t happen with schools when teachers rape students, something that happens a lot more commonly and even around here. He answered, “Because it doesn’t make sense.”
On the subject of, “It’s not the role of government to tell us who to love or how to love, but it is the role of agitators to tell us who we hate and how we hate;” Lance concurred with general, un-politicized perceptions from interacting with Asheville’s police officers: racism does not run like dandelion roots through all police departments. This is not to minimize a problem and to argue that every officer should not strive to the utmost to protect and not abuse – the average man on the street can probably recall in some detail a dozen high-profile instances of white-on-black lethal use of force by law enforcement. Oddly, data cited often goes back to 2012 or 2015, but studies of around 1,000 cases of excessive use of force typically show a 50-50 split among white and other races, and blacks dying from the encounters two and a half times more than whites.
There are a lot of reasons for the disparity. For example, Lance said since 1998 the police department has been receiving grants to station offers in public housing on their days off. The demand for more policing has come from Asheville City Council, from housing authority leadership, and from residents complaining about too much gunfire. Nowhere else in the city, with a possible exception of downtown business districts from time to time, has there been so much demand for extra police protection.
Lance added statistics don’t tell the whole story, because officers would have to make stops outside public housing to avoid “getting swarmed,” a phenomenon not atypical of densely-populated areas. Lance said a lot of white people got stopped in 1998-2000 when cocaine was big. Trucks with Tennessee tags visiting public housing were almost always carrying drugs. People would come from out of the county. He said he’d ask, “Is there no dope in McDowell?” and they’d always tell him Asheville was the place to go.
It appeared Asheville is the go-to place for criminals and the get-out place for law enforcement. Lance said surrounding police departments are inundated with applications from Asheville officers who feel they can no longer do their jobs. Morale is low. Officers with whom he had spoken hours earlier were despondent. They were upset, afraid any one of their split-second, life-and-death decisions, even if they followed procedures precisely and used uncanny discretion, would be misinterpreted and spun into a narrative for the evening news. It could cost them their job, their family, their kids, and everything they’ve been trying to build.
It’s worse than not knowing where to turn for support; they feel targeted. They’re hesitant to perform their traditional roles of keeping the streets safe and keeping innocents out of harm’s way. The city can’t keep a police chief long enough for them to learn his style, and the mayor and the district attorney seem more interested in appeasing “the two percent” who are “going to make political hay out of anything [warranted or unwarranted] to make a political statement.”