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ACLU: Charlotte must reform Citizens Review Board

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina said Monday that the fatal shooting of a 24-year-old man Saturday by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer is another reason why the City of Charlotte should reform the board assigned the job of reviewing police actions.

And the ACLU called on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police to allow public access of any video shot by officers who are wearing the new small cameras purchased through a grant.

Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, called the fatal shooting of Jonathan Ferrell “profoundly tragic and deeply disturbing.”

He said the shooting “is a powerful reminder of why the citizens of Charlotte must have access to effective tools that will provide civilian review of police conduct and promote accountability within the department.”

Brook said the ACLU is calling on Charlotte to take two actions.

“First, the city should take immediate steps to reform its ineffectual Citizens Review Board, which in 15 years has held only four hearings and never once ruled against the police department or for a citizen complainant,” he said.

“Second, officials should treat any footage taken by the cameras now being worn by some CMPD officers to record their interactions with citizens as a public record, and make these recordings accessible to the public,” he added.

A Charlotte Observer investigation showed earlier this year that the Citizens Review Board has held 79 hearings without ever ruling against police. In most of those cases, the investigation showed, the board did not even conduct a hearing.

City officials held a pair of public meetings in July, asking residents for ideas on how the board might be reformed. Those meetings followed Charlotte City Council’s decision in April to review the power of the Citizens Review Board.

Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee said Monday that the city will review police training procedures in the wake of Saturday’s shooting, but he added, “I’m not seeing anything that I would describe as systemic.”

Staff writer Cleve R. Wootson contributed.

Steve Lyttle: 704-358-6107 Twitter: @slyttle
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