Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Kerr Putney urged the community on Thursday to work with his agency as it addresses concerns raised in the aftermath of a fatal police shooting.
Putney addressed a Charlotte city council committee on community demands as well as the their connection to recommendations in the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
“It can’t be us and them, it has to be all of us,” Putney said after the meeting. “Help us get this work done.”
The department has been under heightened scrutiny following the fatal police shooting Sept. 20 of Keith Lamont Scott, who was black.
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Police have said they confronted him in a northeast Charlotte apartment parking lot because he had marijuana and a gun. His family said he was unarmed when he was shot, and the city was roiled by large protests in the aftermath of Scott’s death and intense social media focus.
At the committee meeting, Putney said the various community demands actually fell under several broad areas the president’s task force had highlighted. He said three task force recommendations need to be addressed immediately: training and tactics; cultural proficiency education and body-worn cameras.
Putney said CMPD is emphasizing the need for people to comply with lawful commands from police to de-escalate a situation. “Comply, communicate and de-escalate, you’ll hear me saying that a lot over the next few months,” he said.
Councilman Al Austin said some in the community interpret “comply” with “submit,” even if they’ve done nothing wrong. Putney said he understands that responses can get personal and emotional, but added, “Non-compliance creates the potential for escalation.”
Community leaders also want undercover officers to wear body cameras.
The CMPD denied that request, saying it would jeopardize the safety of those officers and could compromise the integrity of undercover operations. But Putney said the agency is expanding issuing the equipment to all plainclothes officers and officers working off-duty.
After the Scott shooting, there was heightened public demands for police to release all footage of the incident that was captured on dash- and body cameras. Initially, Putney released only portions of the police video, arguing it was unethical to show Scott dying. But he reversed course early this month amid pressure to release the remaining footage.
Community groups also said they want meaningful authority for the Citizens Review Board, which can review allegations of police misconduct. Putney reiterated his interest into exploring getting the group subpoena power, although such a move would require action by the state legislature.
Also this month, Putney called for an independent review of the department’s handling of the Scott case as well as its policies, procedures and relationship with the community. The city council endorsed the outside review by independent consultants with the Police Foundation, which could take six to eight months to complete.
Council members also urged the community to reach out to them or other city officials about how best to help with the various proposals.
After the session, the Rev. Corine Mack, head of the Charlotte branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called Putney’s presentation “a good beginning.” But she said it will take a deeper dive into racial issues to help bring the community together. “The division is real,” she added.