In a move that supporters believe will aid in reducing racial disparities in the city, Asheville police will soon have to get written consent to search vehicles they’ve pulled over instead of just asking for it as is done currently. City council approved the switch Tuesday by a 5-2 vote. Cases where police have ‘probable cause’ to search a vehicle that’s been stopped will not be affected.
City council approved the move against the wishes of police chief Tammy Hooper, who told council members she felt it could hamper officers ability to fight drug and violent crimes she says are spiking in Asheville. She also called it unnecessary. "We have body camera video that's a 100-percent absolute record of what happens during a consent stop - what people are told and what people say," Hooper told the city council Tuesday. "Ther's no better record than that, and written consent doesn't change that."
Supporters of the switch say written consent reduces the pressure a motorist may feel when an officer asks to search their vehicle. Council's move came in response to a report it was presented from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which advocated for written consent. It reported that Asheville police in 2017 relied on verbal consent for searches more than any other department its size or greater in North Carolina. The department last year also had the highest rate of searches of black motorists for a city its size or larger in the state according to the report, which also noted the cities of Durham, Chapel Hill, and Fayetteville all switched to written consent in recent years.