The Chapel Hill Town Council voted Monday night to continue discussing the next steps to take in the investigation of the recent police raid on squatters in the vacant Yates Motor Company building, but there was little enthusiasm for an advisory group’s proposal to hire an independent investigator.
The Community Policing Advisory Council (CPAC) had recommended that an independent investigator could provide more factual evidence about the Nov. 13 incident. The CPAC and some residents had expressed concern about possible biases in a report about the incident filed by Town Manager Roger Stancil.
Ronald Bogle, chairman of CPAC, said he left the meeting “confused about the exact intentions of this council.” He also expressed concern about the role and expectations of the recently created CPAC, a volunteer board. Bogle told the Town Council he would “respect any decision you make” about pursuing an independent investigation.
The topic of how to define the advisory committee’s job was addressed on several occasions by Bogle, the Town Council and a few speakers from the general public. Council member Donna Bell said she believes the committee’s role is to improve community relations and provide a way to navigate the “choppy water” when incidents such as the Yates building raid occur.
However, Bell then questioned the need for CPAC if they would request an independent investigation any time an incident comes to them. Bogle responded that the Nov. 13 incident was a unique circumstance and that he does not expect an independent investigation would be needed every time such an issue emerges.
Some residents said they were happy with Stancil’s report, as well as with the actions taken by police. A few business owners spoke about how the Occupy Chapel Hill movement has affected their businesses and expressed a desire to limit the group from protesting in certain areas.
Other citizens who spoke were directly or indirectly involved in the incident and wanted answers as to why they and their loved ones had guns pointed toward them. These individuals favored the independent investigation proposed by CPAC. One woman, who claimed her brother was among those who had a gun placed to his head by police, said the community was “heartbroken” by what happened.
Council members Lee Storrow and Laurin Easthom voiced their support for an independent investigation. Easthom said she believed an independent investigation would not have to cost a lot of money, which was one of the concerns voiced by some council members. Storrow, though he supports the independent review, admitted that it’s realistically unlikely to happen, judging from the sentiments of many council members.
Tiara Hodges is an intern with the Indy.