In September, several days of riots broke out following the Keith Lamont Scott shooting by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer. The first reports on social media said Scott was a disabled man, shot four times, while carrying a book. The facts would later prove he was carrying a gun (unlawfully, as he was a felon in possession of a firearm) and that he was commanded many times to drop his weapon before one police officer, also a black man, shot him. My purpose in bringing up the story is to remind you that our perspectives and opinions are colored by such events, and existing biases either confirmed or tested.
I had unusual access to CMPD after my firm presented a pro-bono seminar to its command staff (lieutenants to then-Chief Rodney Monroe) entitled In Extremis Leadership (leadership when an individual perceives that his life is in imminent danger). As a management consultant researching the state of training for police officers around the country, I was cleared to ride with as many officers as I wanted, where I wanted and the shifts I wanted. I had unfettered access to roll calls, personnel and facilities. I had one-on-one meetings with a dozen or more command staff officers and conducted another dozen or more interviews with patrol officers and sergeants.
I rode shotgun for more than 100 hours with CMPD officers. My full shifts were always at night and always out of the divisions with the highest crime rates and in the poorest areas of Charlotte. Unlike the readily accessible ride-alongs that most Charlotteans over 18 can sign up for (and I encourage you to do so), I was not required to stay in the patrol car when we arrived at the scene of a call. During my shifts, we handled routine traffic stops and vehicle stops for suspected drugs and guns. I was on stakeouts for drug busts with special CMPD units. We responded to domestic violence calls and calls for shoplifting, burglaries and robberies. I witnessed CMPD officers under stress, usually with their adrenaline flowing, treating suspects with surprising restraint, dignity and respect. As long as suspects didn’t fight or struggle to avoid arrest, the officers used as little force as practical. I saw not a hint of racism or bias with any of the cops I rode with (black or white).
It’s easy to arm-chair quarterback any police department’s bad outcomes. It’s easy to criticize the actions of a bad cop or two. But what most of us don’t see are the thousands of interactions between CMPD and Charlotte’s citizens each day that go smoothly and the acts of bravery and kindness that many officers demonstrate each and every day that you’ll never see on social media.
From the unique access granted me, I believe that the vast majority of CMPD officers are doing a great job under difficult and stressful circumstances. They risk their lives for you and me, at a starting pay commensurate with an assistant manager at a 7-Eleven.
William R. Stark is the practice leader at Maverick LLC, a global management consulting firm based out of Tampa. Subsequent to the author’s research within the CMPD, Maverick retained the services of a CMPD command staff officer to help the firm develop a more advanced and innovative set of police training curriculums. Maverick has not had and does not currently have a fiduciary relationship with CMPD. To avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interests, Maverick will not work with CMPD on a paid basis.