After resigning his post and announcing a move to Colorado, a now-former police officer with the Asheville Police Department in North Carolina said serving as a cop “has taken a toll on my personal life.”
Justin Wilson, who served as a community resource officer for a decade, wrote in an Aug. 21 email to his city’s residents that he is “blessed to exit this job with only emotional scars.” News of the retired officer’s comments come as police around the country are being targeted, including the ambushed shootings of two police officers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as two in Los Angeles County.
“After 10 years at APD,” Wilson wrote, “I can say confidently that APD officers are good people with good hearts. Evil is real. Evil exists in Asheville, officers are surrounded by it, and they do their best with what they have. Please remember that.”
Wilson explained in his message that he regrets not having been able to offer even “more safety and protection” to his community, though he added police have been handed an impossible task: single-handedly solving societal problems that can only be remedied by “strong communities.”
He described his fellow APD officers as “good people with good hearts” who are daily confronted with an evil that is “not within our capacity” alone to eliminate.
The Asheville Citizen Times reported last week that, since June 1, a total of 31 APD officers — to include Wilson — have quit the force.
“It’s not unusual to see 15-20 in a year,” said Chief David Zack. “But when you see the number that we had just in the last two months, that’s unprecedented.”
Zack has attributed the mass exodus to a lack of support for law enforcement and a “very vocal” and consistent opposition to police officers. In the months since the death of George Floyd, who was killed by a now-former Minneapolis police officer, many within the progressive Black Lives Matter movement have called for the defunding of police.
The police chief said he’s concerned the swelling exodus of police officers in Asheville will leave concerning gaps in the force’s efforts to fight crime.
The APD found itself in the spotlight earlier this summer, when officers dressed in riot gear stood athwart Black Lives Matter protesters as they shut down a major thoroughfare leading into Asheville. It’s worth noting, though, that Zack was outspoken in his condemnation of Floyd’s death, announcing in May he believes changes “have to be made” to ensure unprovoked and unnecessary police brutality doesn’t happen.
Asheville also garnered press attention in late July, when members of the city council voted unanimously to apologize for the city’s historic role in discriminating against its black citizens and to invest in what city leaders called “community reparations,” which does not include direct payments to black residents but instead seeks to eliminate disparities by investing in black homeownership and businesses.
Read Wilson’s full letter below:
I wanted to write to a few of you who I have had connections with over the past few years to let you know that I am resigning from APD. I’m headed out to Colorado to start a new career. Being a cop has been very difficult for me. It has taken a toll on my personal life. I cannot begin to explain the complexities of it to someone who has not been involved in it. I wish I could. I’m blessed to exit this job with only emotional scars.
I truly wish I could have offered you more safety and protection. My time as a CRO has been a constant balance of defending APD, and acknowledging the short falls of APD. I tried my best to be transparent and honest with you all. I’ve come to the conclusion that APD is tasked with stopping societal issues, and disorder, but it is not within our capacity. We can only put a bandaid on these issues. Strong communities are the real remedy.
I want to sincerely thank you for your patiences, understanding, and support of APD. Officers require your support to function properly (during both the good and bad times).
After ten years at APD, I can say confidently that APD officers are good people with good hearts. Evil is real. Evil exists in Asheville, officers are surrounded by it, and they do their best with what they have. Please remember that.