Published: Jan 15, 2012 02:00 AM
Modified: Jan 13, 2012 09:26 PM
CHAPEL HILL - The town's new police advisory board wants an outside investigator to examine the November police raid on the Yates Motor Co. building.
The Community Policing Advisory Committee, which the Town Council asked to review the incident, said it could not make any conclusions without more facts about what happened Nov. 13.
"We will need the council to pay for it. It will not be cheap," said member Jessica Smith, who proposed hiring an investigator to establish a factual timeline of events. "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, "appropriate" given what police knew at the time. The police charged eight people with misdemeanors and found no weapons in 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."
Town Council member Donna Bell, the liaison to the committee, said elected leaders intended the committee to fill holes in Stancil's report, which relied heavily on Police Chief Chris Blue's account.
"We kind of knew when it came to you that it would be incomplete," she told the committee.
In an interview Thursday, Bell added: "I don't think any report is complete until someone has read it and asked questions. It is not a shock or surprise that the mayor and the chief didn't answer all the questions."
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 but said perhaps a firm would be willing to take it on pro bono or at a reduced rate.
Committee Chairman Ron Bogle said the Town Council needs to act quickly before memories fade.
"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."
The committee will review the wording of its request at a special meeting this week and make its request to the Town Council on Jan. 23.