Chapel Hill will not hire independent investigator to probe Occupy arrests
Posted January 31, 2012
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Chapel Hill's town leaders will not hire an independent investigator to look into the police response to an Occupy Chapel Hill protest at the Yates Motor Co. building in November.
Seven people were arrested Nov. 13, 2011 after police say more than 70 attendees from an anarchist book fair broke into the Yates Motor Co. building, at 419 W. Franklin St, to align themselves with the Occupy movement. Chapel Hill police defended the force used in the arrests, saying two days after the arrests that riot gear and assault rifles were necessary to raid the building.
Town authorities conducted an internal investigation into whether police were too aggressive, and concluded earlier this month that their actions were appropriate. According to the report, officers took the proper steps to try and communicate with protesters who had created an illegal encampment before they entered the building and removed the protesters.
Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil said an independent investigator would have no advantage over that internal investigation because he or she could not compel people associated with the incident testify.
Leaders also cited the public nature of an independent investigation, saying it might cause people to withhold information that may further the possibility of them being charged or convicted in the incident.
Despite the decision not to move forward with an independent investigation, Chapel Hill's Communications and Public Affairs Department will set up a website and invite and people with first-hand knowledge of the incident to submit that information online.
All accounts of the November incident would be made public and be available on the town's website.
Leaders said new information that raises questions not addressed in the initial investigation could result in the retention of an independent investigator at a later time.