To protect the city from terrorism, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said Tuesday night that people attending large events uptown may need to enter through “controlled access” points.
Events such as Speed Street have been open, meaning anyone could enter at many places.
Putney said the city is considering using the permitting process to require such large-scale events to have a handful of ways in and out, which would give officers an opportunity to make visual contact with everyone attending. Putney did not discuss how detailed the screening would be, though police today already have the ability to search a backpack or suitcase if they have probable cause to think it’s holding a weapon.
Putney discussed the idea at a forum Tuesday about the Extraordinary Events ordinance, which Charlotte City Council passed before the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
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The controversial ordinance prohibited items such as bricks, rocks and chains at large events. It also prohibited people from wearing masks to cover their faces and prohibited people from using a backpack to conceal those items.
The ordinance has been used 41 times, for events such as Speed Street, Carolina Panthers games and the Fourth of July fireworks show.
But soon after arriving in Charlotte in December, new city manager Marcus Jones asked for a review of the ordinance and whether it was still needed.
During the review, Putney said, his views on what’s needed to protect Charlotteans has changed. He said his new focus is stopping terrorism – not protesters using rocks and bricks to cause mayhem.
“Right now we’re focused on what it takes to be safe,” Putney said. “Terrorism is our focus.”
Putney said he and his officers don’t need a list of prohibited items. In the future, his officers will be looking for bombs and people using vehicles as weapons.
He said he wants “layers of protection” to protect the public, and one of those layers might be to require people to enter and exit through certain areas.
“This is not 2012,” he said. “It’s a different environment. We want to expand our footprint of protection. We aren’t focused on restricting anything,” such as bottles and rocks.
Matt Comer works with Charlotte Pride, which staged a large uptown gay pride parade last year. During the forum, he asked how the new crowd-control rules might be implemented. He also said he is upset that he was just learning about the proposal at the forum.
In theory, having controlled access points might prevent attacks like the 2013 Boston marathon bombing, in which two terrorists hid bombs in their backpacks.
But having limited ways in and out of events could produce other security problems if there is a bottleneck of people trying to get in or out. Terrorists in Europe have recently attacked where there are large numbers of people – sometimes outside of a sports stadium or an arena as a concert is ending.
If the proposal moves forward, City Council would repeal the entire Extraordinary Events ordinance and then craft new rules about security at large permitted events.