Our city has seen enough division and anger in the last several days. That’s why I was dismayed to read the opinion piece from Mayor Jennifer Roberts in which she threw the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department and Chief Kerr Putney under the proverbial bus (“Lack of transparency in Keith Scott case was unacceptable” Sept. 27 For the Record).
The riots and protests in Charlotte were unprecedented for our community. People of all backgrounds were horrified to see violence spilling into our streets over the tragic shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.
While the anger and frustration of so many is understandable, the wanton rioting and looting is not, and I would have expected more venom directed at those responsible than at our police department for its handling of a sensitive and emotionally charged shooting investigation.
By denigrating the department for a perceived lack of transparency during an ongoing (and possibly criminal) investigation, the mayor further fanned the flames of mistrust and anger.
By not taking a moment during her op-ed to thank Chief Putney for his tireless service during such a difficult and dangerous time, she further undermined his authority and the very ability to begin restoring the trust and faith in CMPD that the mayor claims to want so much.
And by not publicly supporting the efforts of Chief Putney to reestablish order and protect private property, she encouraged those who would sow mayhem for mayhem’s sake, including many of those from out of town who have come to our city to agitate and pit us against each other.
In addition, no mention was made of past efforts by CMPD to build relationships and trust in the community through programs like Cops & Barbers, Cops & Kids and Community Food Trucks. Or of the countless, selfless acts of kindness from officers on the line each day who do the quiet, unnoticed things to help someone in need on their beat.
In past situations like this, leaders like Chief Putney have had to walk a fine line in trying to keep the trust of their officers, heroically putting themselves in harm’s way, and also that of the minority communities so enraged over real and perceived injustices. Mayor Roberts’s lack of support for Chief Putney did not make walking this line any easier.
Real leadership from Mayor Roberts would have entailed her owning up to her role in how events unfolded and a sincere and honest attempt to bring CMPD and the affected communities together, rather than calling in the Justice Department and issuing heavy-handed demands of the police department.
And Mayor Roberts wonders why “community trust is so low.”
Bradford Muller is chairman of the board of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Foundation, an independent, not-for-profit volunteer organization that provides critical resources and vital support to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department.