Rodney Monroe is not one for sensing when he’s in the midst of profound irony.
Back in December, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief made a presentation to city council on the matter of trust between police and the public. Ferguson, Missouri, was still simmering. New Yorkers were still protesting the death of a “loose cigarette entrepreneur.” CMPD was (and still is) dealing with questions about the September 2013, shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell by Officer Randall Kerrick. Against that backdrop, Monroe asserted CMPD has “been able to maintain a certain level of trust and respect in the community.”
Fast-forward to this past Sunday. The chief was at a CMPD forum on race relations. It came barely two weeks after Janisha Fonville was shot to death by a Charlotte officer – the second deadly shooting the officer has been involved in since 2012 – and less than 24 hours after another CMPD shooting left someone seriously hurt. Monroe was asked if the officer who shot Janisha could have handled things differently. He said the department just invested millions of dollars in body cameras to help hold officers accountable.
At almost the very same time Sunday, a group of about 100 people gathered in a church to once again call on Monroe to release the police dashboard camera video from the Ferrell shooting. That tape is now in the hands of the North Carolina attorney general’s office, which is prosecuting Kerrick for voluntary manslaughter, and they will not release it.
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That doesn’t let Monroe off the hook. He could have released the video early on. He didn’t. Even now, if he were of a mind to, Monroe could call on the AG’s office to release the tape, but he hasn’t. Such evidence is often released, even before trial, when there is a compelling public interest.
Just last year in South Carolina, state police released a dash cam video of a state trooper firing several shots at a driver pulled over for not wearing a seat belt. The trooper was fired, charged with aggravated assault and battery, and the video promptly released.
We also know what Monroe thinks of the public’s “right to know” based on his department’s plans for those much-ballyhooed body cameras. He touts the cameras but wants to prevent people who’ve been taped, or the public, from getting the footage. I’ve taken numerous calls on the radio from people citing the irony in the chief’s transparency puppet show.
Back in December, when Monroe asserted the trust his department had earned in the city, he also declared: “we must hear and understand what our communities are saying.”
Well, your community is speaking to you now, chief. It’s saying, trust depends on openness and transparency. But you’re not hearing and understanding. That’s irony, too, chief. Unless the reason you’re not “hearing and understanding” is that you’re not listening.
Then it would be hypocrisy.
Larson is the mid-morning host on WBT-AM (1110).