Democratic Rep. Alma Adams wants the Department of Justice to open an in-depth investigation into the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department following the fatal shooting of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott.
Called a pattern-or-practice investigation, the probe would determine whether the police department has maintained patterns or practices of excessive force, descriminatory policing and other signs of unconstitutional activity.
The Justice Department has done such investigations under the Obama administration. It announced following the Baltimore riot in April 2015 that it would investigate the city’s police department. The riot was sparked by the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died while in custody of police. The agency also opened an investigation into the Chicago Police Department after video surfaced that showed one of its officers shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald more than a dozen times. The graphic video of McDonald’s death sparked protests.
“I think we do have to look at pattern-or-practice,” Adams, of Charlotte, said during an interview at her Capitol Hill office.
“People need to be receptive to, again, admitting that there’s a problem and then coming together and saying, you know, I know there’s a way we can fix it,” she said. “You might not have the solution, but you may have a portion of what we need to do.”
Adams’ call for a federal pattern-or-practice investigation into the police came just hours after members of the Congressional Black Caucus gathered outside the Department of Justice on Thursday to call on Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate recent police shootings in Charlotte and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“The Congressional Black Caucus is outraged with the dozens of unlawful police shootings that are taking place all across America involving unarmed, innocent African-American citizens,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., the caucus’ chairman. “If we were to identify each of these, it would consume the entire press conference.”
The Congressional Black Caucus is outraged with the dozens of unlawful police shootings that are taking place all across America involving unarmed, innocent African-American citizens. If we were to identify each of these, it would consume the entire press conference.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.
Butterfield and California Rep. Maxine Waters, also a Democrat, delivered a letter to the attorney general containing a list of demands including pursuing investigations, indictments and prosecutions through the civil rights office against law enforcement officers who kill unarmed black men, women and children.
“In 2016, 173 black people have died at the hands of the very law enforcement officers who have been sworn to protect and serve,” Waters said.
Adams gave remarks at Thursday’s news conference after spending Wednesday night in Charlotte. She had intended to participate in protests, but she could not join the crowd because of tear gas being used by the police. She said helicopters had flown over her house in Charlotte’s Fourth Ward until 3 a.m. Thursday.
“It was really painful – and almost horrifying – for me to be there last night,” she told the Charlotte Observer. “When I finally got back to my residence on 10th Street over in the Fourth Ward what put me to sleep, for those two or three hours that I could sleep, were those helicopters.”
Adams will return to Charlotte on Friday.
Adams described her conversations with clergy members and the local chapter of the NAACP. She said she asked community members in Charlotte on Wednesday what message they wanted her to take back to Washington, D.C.
“They’re very concerned about this process being transparent,” she said. “That’s number one, and that the community has an opportunity to feel that there’s transparency, and that there’s going to be a just process and, of course, the first thought is: We need to see – the tapes need to be released.”
Many, she said, wanted the attorney general’s involvement.
Lynch, a North Carolina native, held a news conference of her own Thursday where she implored violent protests to stop.
“I know that most of the demonstrators gathered to exercise their constitutional right to peaceful protest in order to raise issues and create change,” Lynch said. “But I urge those responsible for the violence to stop. You are drowning out the voices of commitment and change and ushering in more tragedy and grief in our communities.”
Lynch pledged to help in Scott’s fatal shooting but has yet to announce a federal investigation.
Shortly after her news conference, Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger said Lynch’s efforts fall far short of his expectations.
“Speak to the people,” he told the Charlotte Observer as he was headed to an afternoon classified briefing on Capitol Hill. “She’s an African-American. She can say, ‘This isn’t right. Be calm. Protest, but do this in a lawful way.’ Where do you hear the voice?”
“Speak to your own people. Please. No more excuses. No more excuses,” Pittenger said. “How disingenuous to have an African-American president who was elected and to have an African-American attorney general and they won’t get on the TV and say, ‘Please, this does not honor us. This does not honor Martin Luther King. This isn’t the right path to go down. Yes, if you want change you have every right to demonstrate but not to destruction of personal property and business property and violence and hurting – that’s terrible.’”
Pittenger suggested that Charlotte’s political leaders and pastors be among the crowd trying to diffuse the situation. What occurred Wednesday night was “deplorable,” he said.
“Charlotte is a wonderful city,” Adams said. “It’s a great community and this has really tainted us. The headlines that we’re getting about our city is not what we’re used to, not what we need and, certainly, it’s really not who Charlotte is.”