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Clergy to Charlotte City Council: Reform local law enforcement
Faith leaders want immediate changes
Published Sunday, July 26, 2020 8:00 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

Charlotte clergy are demanding city leaders initiate police reforms after law enforcement confronted protesters with military-style tactics and equipment during protests last month. Faith leaders will hold a press conference Monday before addressing City Council at the panel's meeting later in the day.

Charlotte’s clergy want the city leaders to bring change to how police deal with civilians.

Religious leaders will gather Monday at the Government Center to demand what they call “ethical policing” after Charlotte-Mecklenburg officers used military-style equipment and tactics to scatter protesters responding to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis, Minnesota police in May. More than 150 clergy from several faiths signed a letter calling for reforms in June and several have signed to speak at Monday’s City Council meeting.

“Policing in Charlotte-Mecklenburg has swung much too far away from constructive community engagement and reasonable de-escalation practices toward violent confrontation, too often ending in needless tragedy,” said the Rev. Rodney Sadler, a Baptist minister and director of the Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation at Union Presbyterian Seminary. “When we’ve been asked to be on the streets to help keep things peaceful, members of our group have breathed in tear gas and been hit in the face with chemical agents. Why in heaven’s name are our police using chemical agents banned in warfare?”

Said the Rev. Peter Wherry, pastor at Mayfield Memorial Baptist Church: “Public trust in our elected officials and the leadership of our police force hangs in the balance. With 40% of our city’s budget going to police, it is past time to reimagine what policing looks like in our city.”

The clergy’s concerns include:

• The lack of public involvement in the appointment of CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings, who replaced the now-retired Kerr Putney last month.

• Ending military-style tactics, equipment and training.

• Review of conferring qualified immunity to officers involved in civilian shootings, which makes it difficult to prosecute.

• Redirect funding from chemical agents used against citizens to programs that address economic, health and social disparities. They also want less-confrontational initiatives such as violence prevention programs and adding mental health professionals to accompany officers on domestic abuse and mental health calls.

Faith leaders say city officials have yet to live up to their pledge to enact reforms since the June protests, in which CMPD fired chemical agents at civilians, said the Rev. Veronica Cannon, moderator of the Presbytery of Charlotte. The ministers aim to remind them.

“Unfortunately, in the weeks since then, our concern about what public safety looks like in Charlotte have only deepened,” she said.

Said the Rev. Glencie Rhedrick, associate minister at First Baptist Church-West: “City officials promised reforms after the 2016 protests following the killing of Keith Lamont Scott, but little if anything has changed. This time, the clergy of our city, and the worshippers we serve, aren’t going away until we see real reform that brings true safety and hope to our streets.”


Are there police who are willing to participate in these discussions to make policing more effective and less casualty producing?
Posted on July 29, 2020

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