I recently got a call from a Kindness Campaign (KC) volunteer, Robert Wilson, who told me that his friend, Kyle Ross, had been tazered and arrested by the police. He asked if I would be willing to help her. I asked Robert to have Kyle contact me and describe what happened. I received a 12-page, detailed descriptionI learned that at 6:00 am, Kyle was walking to a neighbor’s house to perform an act of kindness. She had agreed to feed the neighbor’s dog and cat, and to put the dog in the backyard until the neighbor returned from a trip later that day. As she walked briskly along, an officer shouted at her from behind and asked her name.
Mistaken Identity Leads to Panic
She did not know that the police were looking for a robbery suspect in the neighborhood who vaguely fit Kyle’s description as a white female. (Later the police learned the robbery report was false, the byproduct of a domestic argument.) Kyle began “freaking out” from the questioning; the officers did a full body search of her, and one officer fired his stun gun, knocking Kyle to the ground. He used his stun gun on her two more times, then Kyle was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. She was held in jail for nine hours.Because she had no prior police record, she was finally released without bond, very much shaken by the experience. Soon afterwards, Kyle filed a complaint against the police. After an internal investigation, the police dropped the charges; she got a letter of apology from the Police Chief and the officer who tazered her was dismissed. She later won a lawsuit against the City for medical and other expenses resulting from this incident.
Wanting to prevent others from enduring a similar ordeal, Kyle spoke at our “Conversations on Kindness” community meeting last June. A group of volunteers consequently formed the Kindness Campaign’s Police and Community Relations Action Team. Their goal was to help create “kinder” police/community relations.In January, the Kindness Campaign’s Executive Committee endorsed the Action Team’s recommendations to update the police department’s complaint/ commendation process, making it more visible and accessible to citizens who wish to file formal complaints. The Action Team also recommended a departmental process for identifying and recognizing police officers who perform exemplary acts of kindness. We plan to give the team our Community of Kindness Award.
Citizens/Police Advisory Committee
On January 24, the Action Team presented their recommendations to the Citizens/Police Advisory Committee. Composed of citizens who represent geographic areas of the city, the Advisory Committee accepted the recommendations, and also invited an ad hoc Kindness Campaign representative to join their team. Our recommendations will be presented to City Council this summer.
Kyle has done a remarkable job of heading this Action Team, which will be honored on March 30 at a party sponsored by the Kindness Campaign. She told me recently, “A lot of good things happened as a result of this terrible event. It awakened my passion for writing [a book about her experience] and for police/community relations.” She would like to see Asheville become a model for kind police/community relations and hopes that her efforts help make that happen.
The KC Selects a Winning Bumper Sticker
The Kindness Campaign received more than 250 entries to its bumper sticker contest, initiated as part of Kindness Week in Asheville, February 13-19. The winning entry came from Judith Toy of Black Mountain: “Kindness, the ultimate renewable resource.” Judith, a meditation teacher at her Black Mountain Center, won a dinner for two at Vincenzo’s in Asheville. She told me that she had an intuitive feeling she was going to win.Barry Weinhold, Ph.D., is founder of the KC in Colorado and now North Carolina. Find out more and how you can participate by calling Barry at: 828-686-1890.
(This article was first printed in the April 2006 issue of Spirit in the Smokies, Magazine of Living Newstories.