Apologies due

At Monday night’s council meeting, Donna Bell said she was sorry that Katelyn Ferral was detained while covering a story at the Yates building but acknowledged that when you run with the big dogs, sometimes you get sprayed with drool.

Those weren’t Bell’s exact words, but that was the gist of her response to Laurin Easthom’s and Lee Storrow’s resolution for a blanket apology from the town to the “press” for police ordering Ferral to the ground along with others at the crime scene.

Bell’s point was that everyone makes decisions that have consequences. Reporters have to be vigilant that in getting as close as they can to whatever they’re covering, they don’t cross the line into becoming a part of the story. Easthom’s resolution passed 5-4 – Bell joined Matt Czajkowski, Gene Pease and Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt in voting against apologizing for police doing their job.

That got me thinking about all of the times in life I’ve endured something unpleasant that surely someone should take the blame for and extend an apology to me.

All those Friday afternoons I had to leave home an extra hour early to drive to work in Raleigh because rush-hour traffic clogged I-40.

The time the whole family came down with the flu at the same time, and sick as I was, I had to take care of everyone else because I was the wife and mom.

The mornings, for years, I got up in the dark to pack lunches and make breakfasts and walk the kids to the bus stop to wait for the 6:45 a.m. school bus.

I’m sure you have your own list. Did we deserve these things? No, and someone should apologize.

How about it, Town Council?
– Nancy Oates

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  1. I was disappointed by Donna Bell’s apparent ignorance of the extent of Katelyn Farrel’s detention and subsequent handling – including being told not to photograph the event further (it was Katelyn’s photos capturing the militaristic response which garnered national attention and general rebuke).

    As Council liaison to the Community Policing Advisory Board she should have a better grasp of the facts than her colleagues.

    She remained face-down on the ground for about 15 minutes before she was cuffed with plastic zip ties and told to sit in a line with about 12 other people who had been detained.

    After about 30 minutes police took her picture, took down her name, address, date of birth, drivers license number.

    Ferral asked why she was being detained and was told that she was not on the bus with those charged with breaking and entering because she wasn’t inside the building.

    Police told Ferral she would be arrested if she was caught on the premises again, Ferral said.

    After she was released, Ferral was not allowed to take additional photographs and was told to go across the street.


    We count on the local media to be our citizens’ eyes and ears. Detaining a credentialed reporter and putting her face down on a public sidewalk for 15 minutes doesn’t jibe with Donna’s account of a temporary inconvenience. Forbidding a journalist to document a controversial public action by the police is inexcusable.

    Laurin tried several times to communicate why the breach in public trust deserved an apology – it was frustrating to see Donna’s (and other Councilors) lack of concern about this fundamental violation of how our small-d democracy is supposed to work.

    The best comment, though, came from Ed Harrison, who said (to paraphrase) – he knows when a mistake is made an apology is called for – and detaining the Press was a mistake.

    BTW – love the edit feature!

  2. runner

     /  January 11, 2012

    The police action was a proper response to a criminal act. These “occupiers” had confiscated private property and the crowd was even chanting “kill the cops”.

    By the way, the original picture had Mark Shultz in the image, on the Yates property. Yet, later versions of the picture that appeared in the N&O had him cropped out.

    Also, the other media person wasn’t even a journalist. He was carrying an out of date credential from a job he no longer had.

    Eventhough the Yates occupiers claim to not be part of he “Occupy” movement, many also participated in that action. And to me, this whole Occupy thing has been a protest about the right to protest. In my opinion, it has been one of the most worthless protests in our country’s history.

  3. Don Evans

     /  January 11, 2012


    If only the Montgomery police had stormed the bus on which Rosa Parks was riding, that could have de-legitimized Parks’ subversive and illegal action as well as the whole civil rights movement, right? When police tote the big guns onto a scene, it must be the correct action to take, right? Because the police are monitored by, uhm, the police, right? As we saw at Kent State and Chicago and Seattle and in Orangeburg, S.C., all it takes is one scared cop with a nervous twitch or an attitude against “those people” to start a massacre.

    The use of such force against protesters, regardless of their legal status or their cause, is anti-American and more dangerous to our system of justice than Chief Blue and others care to admit. It is shortsighted and extremely dangerous to buy into the party line and agree with the town to sweep this under the rug and just blame the protesters. We are doing future residents a disservice by not questioning the actions of the police and the protesters.

  4. runner

     /  January 11, 2012


    I respectfully disagree with your analogies. The police used the correct level of force to ensure a safe outcome of a CRIMINAL action.

    I could very easily flip your analogy around and say that all it took was for one of the protesters to throw a rock or set up a booby trap to hurt a cop.

    The freaks in this town just piss me off sometimes.

  5. Terri Buckner

     /  January 11, 2012

    32 years ago I walked into a home invasion. The man in the house was a known rapist, but he wasn’t expecting two of us to walk in together. We weren’t sure whether he was in the house or escaped, but we called 911 and after the police arrived, my friend and I spent several hours sitting on the sofa with an officer who had her weapon laid out of the coffee table while the rest of the force searched the area. To do this day, I have a visceral remembrance of the fear I felt. I don’t expect it will ever go away. That gun laying there was as frightening as the threat of physical harm from the intruder.

    I am disappointed that local police chose not to ask the people to leave before resorting to weapons used in warfare. I am disappointed that they put everyone on the streets and in adjoining businesses at risk. I am disappointed that anyone would think this was an acceptable response to a non-violent threat. I am angry about this entire situation.

    Comparing the inconveniences of life to having a gun pointed at you simply tells me that you have never been exposed to a direct physical threat of force. That’s good for you, but it certainly shows a lack of empathy. As far as I’m concerned, the town council should apologize to everyone involved whether a reporter or not.

  6. runner

     /  January 11, 2012


    You’re entiltled to your opinion and I’m entitled to mine. In my opinion, the Yates incident is not the event to hang your hat on as a freedom of expression/freedom of protest argument.

    The people who took over the Yates building were acting in a criminal manner. They had anti-police literature with them and some had a history of violence. If you look at the people who were arrested, some of them were the same people who stormed and damaged the Greenbridge property. And, there was at least one other arrested person who had committed other property crimes in North Carolina.

    The argument of free expression should be saved for things like the Occupy movement up by the post office. The Yates incident was criminal and called for a police response.

    And yes, I have had a gun in my face before. Sometimes the display of guns are the right choice.

  7. Scott Maitland

     /  January 11, 2012

    Don, that’s my problem. Nobody has questioned the motives of the protestors.

    Nobody from the Chapel Hill News, including Ms. Farrel, reported on the posters calling for violent overthrow of our society and violence towards “fucking pigs” that were plastered all over downtown including the Chapel Hill News Building (I know that for a fact because I had to remove those very same posters). Regardless of how that changes people’s views of what happened, why was it never mentioned as a mitigating factor for creating the climate for the entire event and the subsequent police action?

    Wil, is your concern the time it took for Ferrel to be questioned and released? Because if you are suggesting that time was an aggravating circumstance, how fast do you expect a crime scene to be controlled, people processed etc? In thirty minutes she was released. Having had to take prisoners during the Gulf War, I can tell you it takes time.

  8. DOM

     /  January 11, 2012

    Yet another teacup tempest in our Progressively-Correct community.

  9. Scott, you’re the second Vet I’ve heard from who compared clearing Yates to clearing potential combatants in a military zone.

    Katelyn was an unarmed journalist standing on a public sidewalk documenting the raid. She was not a potential combatant in a combat zone.

    I see this as part of a greater problem in our country. Policing is a distinctly different task than a military operation yet we’ve heard resounding rhetoric of the US being policeman to the world – using our military – and we’ve armed even the smallest of police forces with military grade hardware.

    The protesters who broke and entered were also not military combatants. Fear seemed to overtake good sense in handling them. Look at the information cited in the report – essentially their supposed political affiliation – anarchist – drove the decision making process in lieu of evaluating the suspects directly. We now know they were young, some of whom acted like true jackasses. That doesn’t warrant the SERT response.

    As far as creating a climate. Sure, some of the protesters acted horribly – shouted vile names at our officers – papered Downtown with a lot of anarchist poser posters. And I understand the very human response of officers being angered by that nonsense.

    But we have a highly trained force – selected carefully to work within the “Chapel Hill way” of policing – who are supposed to be making judgments which factor out that anger and upset.

    That said, I know the chain of command involved in making the decision to use SERT. They are level headed folks who I don’t see as being motivated by anger which is why I continue to believe that there was a substantial systems failure in arriving at the decision to use the most extreme measures in handling the Yates incident.

    Think about it for a second – our police force wielded deadly force which could have easily ended up creating a fatal outcome which would’ve forever tarred Chapel Hill as Kent State was in the 70’s. What were these folks doing that merited potential death?

  10. runner

     /  January 11, 2012


    There was no “substantial systems failure” in the decision making of the CHPD. Those are your words.

    And, this was not the “most extreme” measures that could have been used.

  11. Terri Buckner

     /  January 11, 2012


    I don’t object to the police clearing the building. I object to the extent of the force, which IMHO was excessive, used to accomplish the task. Why do I think it was excessive? I’m not a police officer and I have no way of determining the actual threat. But the police asked two civilians from the Downtown Partnership to enter the building and talk to the protesters. If these people were so very dangerous, why would the police put two civilians at such risk? Don’t you see any conflict between the use of assault rifles and asking unarmed civilians to enter the building?

    A complete, detailed assessment of the incident would have included the perspective of the reporters and the protesters so that a full, 360 degree story is told, with all its contradictions and differences. It would also include a assessment against standards of police practice for similar types of incidents. Such an assessment would help clarify the inconsistencies in the picture painted by the chief and the manager.

    To my mind, the town council did themselves and the town a serious disservice by not pursuing an independent review. It’s not that I don’t trust the citizen’s advisory committee–I just don’t think a newly formed committee, staffed by the police and a town council member, will have the independence needed to convince the public of their neutrality. But I also don’t think they should have appointed Jim Neal to head the committee. My solution would have been for the council to refer the issue to the mayor or a small group of council members to come up with a committee–like they did when they hired Roger Stancil (Gene Pease was one of the HR experts hired for that task).

  12. Runner, I know the work of the officers who made the decision to use SERT – the only explanation I currently have for their decision is that there was a “substantial systems failure” as they’ve shown themselves to be level-headed and effective policing our community. In the computer industry we have a term – GIGO – garbage-in/garbage-out which I think partially explains how the CHPD ended up ignoring their own internal policing strategies – which focus on engagement and communication – in arriving at the decision to adopt a level 6 force response stance. Look at the presentation made Monday – lots of speculative inferences made based on very sketchy intel.

  13. Terri Buckner

     /  January 11, 2012

    The Community Policing Advisory Committee has called for an independent review.

  14. To be specific, the CPAC will describe 3 possible ways forward, one of which is to hire an independent investigator to do fact-finding.

    The consensus stood behind the CPAC hiring the investigator.

    The investigation would include testimony from witnesses and participants (something missing from the current report). It would be “searching” and sort out what is known and agreed upon, what is alleged (like Katelyn saying she showed credentials vs. officers saying she didn’t) and how the actions of the CHPD aligned with their policies.

    There was some very good discussion on laying a firm, factual foundation for further discussions. As justification, a number of inconsistencies and omissions in the current report were highlighted by CPAC members.

    It’s also expected that some recommendations might arise on modifying or clarifying existing departmental policy.

  15. Chris Jones

     /  January 11, 2012

    It’s Chapel Hill’s favorite dead horse!!! Everybody line up so we can keep beating it!!!

    News flash — people (Will, Don, Terri here, amongst other in the community I’m sure) don’t approve of what CHPD did. Nothing anyone ever says will ever change it. Chief Blue could find Saddam’s missing nukes in the back of one of the anarchists 1982 Volvos, and it wouldn’t change their opinion.

    Others in the community, such as myself, have absolutely no issues with how CHPD responded. None. The Anarcho-Lite-Brigade could haved cured cancer and paid off the national debt in the Yates Building, and I would still think CHPD was right for removing them.

    I do believe, however, that some of your arguments are either materially wrong, lacking reason, or overly based on emotion.

    Terri: “Comparing the inconveniences of life to having a gun pointed at you simply tells me that you have never been exposed to a direct physical threat of force.” I’m sorry you had an experience that was so unpleasant. I have stared down a barrel during a street mugging before, and I have pointed a loaded weapon at a home intruder before. I did not like the feeling of having a gun pointed at me; however, I also have no second thoughts about chasing a criminal out of my house, and, I believe, would have shot had he come at me instead of running like the smart dumb-ass he turned out to be. I think you and I, based on what I’ve read, probably have a clear difference to explain our different emotional reactions: I don’t think you like guns, in general. I like guns. There, that was pretty easy.

    As far as “sending Downtown Partnership” folks in, you’re accepting fact and ignoring logic. The OccupyRiddlers believe ACAB and “fucking pig”; but they weren’t some offshoot of the Branch Davidians shooting everyone who approached the building. Logically, you DO send someone who has a better chance to engage the criminals. By the time this happened, remember, the twits had already spoken to and moved in a manner that a CHPD officer found threatening.

    Will, Will, Will . . . . you so passionately try to make your point, but leave such glaring holes in your argument. First and foremost, despite your impassioned plea that you’re correct, Runner had it right the first time: You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to. You say “substantial systems failure”, I say Best Decision made on Available Knowledge. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and your’s is not without merit, but please don’t come back with it a second time as if it is fact.

    “Katelyn was an unarmed journalist standing on a public sidewalk documenting the raid.” Sure, to you. Was she that to the CHPD? Or was she an individual who was observed over a period of time entering and exiting the building, and lingering outside on the scene, who was sympathetic to or a part of the robbery? You expect a CHPD officer in that situation to know her by sight? You know what, I’ve been downtown everyday, out and about the majority of those, for 7 years. I’ve been to more press conferences, meetings, forums, and whatever than I could count. Katelyn could come up and kick me in the butt tomorrow, and I wouldn’t have the slightest clue who she was — why shold I expect someone from CHPD to automatically know that she is N&O, and, furthermore, to make the assumption that she is in some way untouchable? BFD if she had a press pass . . . gimme 20 minutes and a color printer, and I’ll have a “press pass” too. And even if their was some universally accepted, fail-safe, fool-proof magical pass that every citizen, cop, etc. KNEW made that bearer a member of our esteemed press . . . .ahem, THEY’RE STILL NOT IMMUNE. Lie with dogs, get fleas, you know, that whole thing?

    So finally, to address our now ever-so-lurid description of the Chrysler building as a “war / combat zone”. Folks, the SERT team didn’t rappell into Tora Bora here. I hope you ALL realize (and, yes, I’m making an assumption here, but I’m using reason and logic in making it) that the intent of a response such is that is NOT to commence hostilities and start dropping these fools with well-aimed killshots between the eyes. You all DO understand that, right? The CHPD responded to a situation with a high-degree of unknowns. But what did they know?
    They knew that they had a crowd that, at the minimum, was unfriendly to police. They knew that their were members that had committed previous offenses. They knew that lookouts were posted. They knew that there were objects being brought in that, while benign, could be used as weapon. They knew that members of the group subscribed to a political system, of which some elements abdicated violence. They knew that there had been violent conflict between law enforcement and like-minded individuals in other areas of the country. So, they knew that, if they wanted to end the ILLEGAL occupation, they had to respond in a manner that provided the greater deterrance to a violent response by the criminals. It may look like overkill (forgive the expression) in hindsight, but that’s also on the fact that the big, bad, anarchists really amounted to a bunch of idealistic snot-nosed rude twits that wouldn’t know anarchy if it clocked ’em upside the head.

    Lastly, good god, lose the Kent State comparison. It’s apples-to-water buffaloes. Kent St. is the systemic failing of sending the military (National Guard) to do a police officer’s job. Our military serves a fine and proud purpose, but police action isn’t one of them. Military members are trained to identify and eliminate a threat; police officers (such as our SERT team) are trained to defuse a potentially threatening situation.

    Sorry for the long-winded post, I wanted to make sure I got in a few well-aimed kicks on this dead mule!! Maybe next time, we can all get together to debate whether or not panhandling is freedom of speech, or maybe we can talk about the shelter again some too!

  16. Chris Jones

     /  January 11, 2012

    NM – figuring out the new “edit” function

  17. Let me condense my argument then. You say the CHPD actions were justified for several reasons including “respond[ing] to a situation with a high-degree of unknowns.”

    This was the major problem. The CHPD had multiple avenues to pursue in reducing the number of unknowns – including speaking to their own officer who spent 20-30 minutes conversing with the occupiers that morning. The department’s own policy and new strategy document emphasizes over and over engaging and communicating as the first choice in any police encounter (and reasonable conditions). The report produced on Monday shows that the CHPD failed to follow through on one of their key strengths – inter-acting with the community. Had they done so, and if they had consulted with their own officer, the range of responses would have been much more broader and their actions more proportionate to the offense.

  18. BTW, robbery is “the felonious taking of the property of another from his or her person or in his or her immediate presence, against his or her will, by violence or intimidation.” Theft “the act of stealing; the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods or property of another”. It’s probably more accurate to claim that the occupiers were trying “to take the property of another wrongfully” or, more tersely, steal the building.

  19. Terri Buckner

     /  January 12, 2012

    Chris–your arguments are exactly why so many of us wanted an knowledge, independent review of this incident. Emotions need to be removed from the analysis.

    I do hope the town hires an investigator with more credibility than the one they hired for the Sanitation 2 investigation….that part does have me a bit worried.

  20. Chris Jones

     /  January 12, 2012

    Will, thank you for your definition of “robbery”. For what it’s worth, I was attempting to go back and correct to “breaking and entering”, but I ran out of time in the edit feature. And, again, it’s hard to interact with a group that doesn’t want to interact with you.

    Which, again, gives further evidence to why this entire discussion is silly. No fact or logic I present will sway your (or others) opinion. No reason or argument you present will change my perception.

  21. DOM

     /  January 12, 2012

    “I do hope the town hires an investigator…”

    OMG. More taxpayer money wasted?

  22. runner

     /  January 12, 2012

    This town is chock full of annoying squeaky wheels. Therefore, we will be mired in this crap for a long time. Now I know why most people around here just turn off from local politics. Have fun with your little “Investigation”.

    This town is definitely no longer the little town that “Southern Living” used to tout as a one of the best in the south. I want my money back.

  23. Fred Black

     /  January 12, 2012

    I want an apology — for a long list of things! On that list is an apology for how we have gone after our police department and its leadership for doing their jobs. The complaint seems to be that the team “looked scary” and “bad” things could have happened because of the use of semi-automatic rifles. I only hope that their level of professionalism will not cause them to hesitate and put their lives at greater risk in future actions because we have vocal citizens who know better how they ought to respond to things these same citizens just don’t understand but know for sure that they do.

    Many have not, it appears, taken the time to consider the alternatives that might have been. Following good and appropriate procedures seemed to make some citizens angry. They want “ALL OF THE FACTS!” I’m convinced that knowing the facts would change nothing; that’s just counter to the agenda. Facing all of those unknowns leads to a policy posture. And yes Will, the procedures are similar because clearing is clearing. Better intel? I can hear the outrage now if the CHPD had a plant who infiltrated the group to gain intel. How dare the cops! That’s not fair in Chapel Hill!

    You know, I’m sorry that this event is our top news, especially given all of the other things we should be dealing with. Will we now put up signs telling future bank robbers that citizens of Chapel Hill want the police posture to be, “Please Give Back the Money and De-traumatize the hostages; All is Forgiven!”

  24. DOM

     /  January 12, 2012

    Well said, Fred.

  25. PH

     /  January 18, 2012

    Chris Jones for Mayor!!

    (Although try to refrain from kicking mules and horses, dead or alive, in real life)


    But, seriously, finally a post from someone other than an idealist who would never think of being supportive of one of their family members becoming a police officer or joining the military but wants the police to respond in 0.02 seconds to any perceived threat they might experience.

    Too many people in Chapel Hill have really unrealistic ideas or they’re just plain nuts.