Published: Feb 12, 2012 02:00 AM
Modified: Feb 11, 2012 11:36 AM
If town officials had said two months ago what they said last week about the Yates raid, they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble.
Town Manager Roger Stancil and Police Chief Chris Blue each sat down for separate hour-long interviews with Chapel Hill News editor Mark Schultz to address some of the questions we've been asking ever since the incident took place on Nov. 13.Their responses were articulate, candid and thorough - a far cry from the incomplete, circle-the-wagons character of most of the earlier official town comments. We appreciate their candor.It's tempting to wonder whether things would have gone differently if Blue had been on the scene. He was out of town that pretty Sunday afternoon (running a marathon at the coast).
Blue and Stancil last week acknowledged that police overestimated the threat posed by the anti-capitalist activists who had occupied the Yates building.They acknowledged that they could have, and should have, first tried less forceful means to evict the squatters - like asking them to leave. Among the things Blue confirmed last week was that police never did ask or instruct the protesters to vacate the premises voluntarily before the heavily armed tactical team rushed the building.
"I wish we had made a more assertive request for those folks to leave the building," Blue said.
They acknowledged that there were breakdowns in communication. And they acknowledged that there are lessons they need to draw.
"The worst thing that could happen for Chris and me is to have another incident occur and we don't handle it differently and better than we handled it before," Stancil said.
That's what we've been waiting to hear.
We know some of you are sick of hearing about Yates. We're eager for the town to move on, too - but to move on wiser and more thoughtful for having carefully examined an important moment in our community.
That's where the "Just drop it and move on already" argument fails. If you don't examine your actions and acknowledge those that you could have done more effectively, you don't learn anything. You miss the opportunity to grow and improve.
Stancil and Blue recognize that.That's why Stancil has followed up by hiring an outside consultant to review department policies and recommend changes. That's why Blue said, "We need some policies to help guide us in some civil disobedience situations."Both men spoke of how highly regarded the Chapel Hill Police Department is, how well it historically has handled protests and other gatherings.
Blue pointed out that later on the evening of the Yates incident, a crowd of protesters held a march, and his officers did what they've done countless times: "We stopped traffic and let these folks who wanted to be heard express themselves."
He's right. And it's to his credit and Stancil's that they recognize that Yates, as unpleasant as it was, offers a chance to get even better.
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