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Use of force changes in works for Mecklenburg law enforcement
New policies in wake of national, local protests
 
Published Friday, June 5, 2020 12:31 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

FILE PHOTO
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney (above) and Mecklenburg Sheriff Garry McFadden announced excessive force intervention policies for their respective agencies this week.

Mecklenburg County’s largest law enforcement agencies are changing how excessive force against civilians is reported while a Charlotte City Council member wants greater oversight.

Council member Braxton Winston announced today he will introduce a motion to create a committee “that will evaluate, scrutinize and recommend adjustments to police spending and policy involving such tactics” by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police. The panel would be picked by council and the city manager.


In an email, Winston said his motion would also block city spending to acquire or maintain existing stocks of chemical agents used for crowd control and dispersal starting in fiscal year 2021. CMPD, which used tear gas Tuesday to disperse civilians protesting police brutality and economic inequality, was roundly criticized for its tactics amid national concern of law enforcement misconduct against black Americans. The incident is under review by the State Bureau of Investigation.

“The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department, as well as police departments across the country, should immediately and permanently end the use of tear gas,” said U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, who represents Charlotte. “Weapons that are illegal in war should never be used on American soil, especially against our own people.”

The local Fraternal Order of Police criticized Winston's proposal while maintaining CMPD resorted to gas only when officers were assaulted.

“Councilman Braxton Winston wants CMPD to stop the use of chemical munitions,” said Chris Kopp, spokesman for FOP Lodge 9. “This decision is not up to CMPD.  This decision is up to those individuals assaulting our officers and our citizens.  Officers are sworn to protect people and preserve order.  We will not accept members of this community who assault others and cause anarchy.” 

While not criticizing CMPD, Mecklenburg Sheriff Garry McFadden said Wednesday using such tactics should be a “last resort.”

“I don’t like it. Never did, because it reminds me of the ‘60s,” McFadden, a retired CMPD homicide detective, said at the Gantt Center’s “Unmasked” virtual forum on inequities impacting African Americans. “If we can do our work until this is the last resort, then we shouldn’t have it.”

CMPD Chief Kerr Putney and McFadden each announced excessive force intervention policies this week. CMPD’s current policy details scenarios for use of force, but Putney added a section that reads: “Officers will take appropriate and immediate action in any situation in which they know or should have known their failure to act would result in an excessive response to resistance or any egregious behavior which shocks the conscience.”

Putney, who has pushed for more accountability and community outreach over the last couple of years, said the additional guidance is a step in that direction. Changes in how CMPD interacts with civilians, such as increased emphasis on de-escalation confrontations, became a point of emphasis after the 2016 killing of Keith Scott sparked a week of demonstrations in the city.

“I think it speaks to the essence of our value of human life, how we want to approach the protection thereof, and also the engagement of our community who helped us design this particular policy,” Putney said Thursday during a virtual news conference.

But Robert Dawkins, president of SAFE Coalition NC, isn’t impressed.

“We are not happy at all with the standard that’s stated in the policy to trigger CMPD Duty to Intervene policy. It flies in the face of why we asked for it,” he tweeted Thursday. “This is a ‘we did something’ policy. We have more faith in @MeckSheriff on his version. Keep peacefully protesting CMPD.”


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