Tryon police chief addresses overzealous complaints

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, November 25, 2014

by Leah Justice

After a packed October meeting with residents complaining of overzealous police in Tryon, last week’s meeting was full of compliments for how the police department has responded.

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Tryon Town Council met Nov. 18 and heard from police chief Jeff Arrowood. Arrowood said he, Mayor Jim Wright and town manager Joey Davis have met with several business owners since October to discuss what occurred at the last meeting.

Arrowood said the department is increasing foot patrol, is scheduling an open house for all town departments in December and has plans to start a citizen police academy. The meetings with business owners are also continuing, he said.

“We’ve started a dialogue and it’s been very good for me,” Arrowood told council.

Arrowood said the department has also been encouraging ride-a-longs with officers with anyone in the community.

“If you want to come ride with use, we’re happy to have you,” said Arrowood.

Commissioner Bill Ingham said he saw in the paper that day a profile of Columbus police officer Nicholas Stott and suggested Tryon officers do the same.

Arrowood agreed. He also detailed a new body camera the department is trying out, with the camera worn on the officer’s body.

Arrowood said the department is looking at a policy of when officers should use the camera. He said he doesn’t want officers to be able to make changes to the video and the one Tryon is considering doesn’t allow any changes and it also does not take up storage space on the department’s computers.

Arrowood said he thinks the cameras will help with complaints as well as help with officer accountability.

Tryon also has cameras in their vehicles that automatically turn on once the lights are turned on.

Arrowood said he wants transparency and is looking at a policy for the body cameras that gives the town transparency without violating anyone’s privacy. He said he will make a recommendation during council’s December meeting to purchase body cameras.

Citizen comments last week included Chris Balliew, McGourty’s owner, who congratulated the town on how it handled the situation. Balliew was the first one to speak at the town’s October meeting and presented a petition with approximately 500 signatures regarding the town’s “overzealous” police department to council last week.

Balliew said the cooperation has been impressive.

“We should be very proud of these guys and everything that has been done,” said Balliew.

Balliew also said he does have a problem with one of the department’s policies, he referred to as “the turnaround.”

He said at night officers will turn around to follow people driving through town and he thinks the policy should be changed.

Commissioner George Baker asked Balliew what he meant.

“After a certain time at night everyone who goes through town, (officers) are going to turn around and check them out,” said Balliew.

Balliew added that he is not suggesting officers not do their job, but the blanket policy of “we’re going to turn around just because you’re driving through our town,” is a bad policy.

During commissioner comments, Baker said he did a police ride-a-long recently and it was very educational. He said some would be surprised how short a time it takes to ride every street in Tryon. Baker said the technology in the police cars was educational, and seeing and understanding the technology really made him understand how the process works.

“You have to pull up pretty close to see a tag,” Baker said.

Baker said the officer he rode with assisted in a stop on Maple Street of a man who was driving at 10 p.m. without his lights on and it was fun and very educational for him.