Charlotte City Council on Monday unanimously voted to endorse an outside review of police department policies, bump up affordable housing goals and spend $1 million on new workforce development initiatives, following protests last month that rocked the city after Charlotte-Mecklenburg police shot and killed a black man.
The actions come less than a month after Charlotte was thrust into the international spotlight surrounding shooting deaths of African-American men at the hands of police, and two weeks after dozens of furious speakers criticized and often shouted down City Council, calling for resignations across the city
The vote means outside consultants from the Police Foundation in Washington, D.C., will review CMPD’s policies and procedures, in addition to the ongoing investigation into the shooting, a step Chief Kerr Putney requested last week.
City Council last week released a letter pledging to focus on “safety, trust and accountability,” affordable housing and “good paying jobs” in response to the protests after Keith Lamont Scott’s shooting death. Police have said Scott was armed, but social media allegations that he was holding a book, not a gun, quickly spread and helped spark large protests in the University City area and uptown.
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One man was shot to death during the protests in front of the Omni hotel on Trade Street. CMPD arrested another man in the crowd and charged him with the crime, though no motive has been released.
Democratic council member Al Austin said the city needs to focus on the main concern of citizens, which is the police.
“I wish the process could be accelerated,” he said. “Hopefully this (report) won’t be a nice book that we put on the shelf.”
Some citizens wanted more action.
Cherry resident Karen Jensen has been a frequent critic of the city and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. She said the council’s focus on housing and jobs does not directly address the concerns of protesters, which is police conduct.
“It may be related, but it’s a separate issue,” she said. “They want accountability for what each of you are doing.”
Republican council member Ed Driggs said the Police Foundation’s work will be “far-reaching.” He defended the council’s decision to also focus on jobs and housing.
“I thought I heard a cry of despair,” he said about people who spoke before council two weeks ago.
Council members and Mayor Jennifer Roberts issued separate statements in response to the Scott shooting, but they were in agreement Monday.
Roberts asked that people “hold us accountable.”
Among the actions City Council approved Monday:
▪ Amending the city’s affordable housing goals to build 5,000 units over three years instead of five years.
Council member LaWana Mayfield said building 5,000 units in three years will be a “huge undertaking,” which might be an understatement. In the past 14 years, the city has financed 5,500 affordable units and completed 4,640.
”We need partners to build,” she said. “We don’t build.”
County Commissioner Vilma Leake, who spoke to council, said “affordable housing is fine, but we need low-income housing.”
Leake was referring to the city’s focus on building what it calls “workforce housing,” which is for people earning 60 percent of the area median income. That’s about $40,000 for a family of four.
▪ Investing $1 million in a “new workforce development program that will increase jobs, training and opportunities for our youth and individuals with multiple barriers to employment.” The funds will come from the city’s community development block grant funding and fiscal year 2015 capital reserves.
Council members had previously tentatively approved the workforce program but had only budgeted $250,000 for it.
The people who attended Monday’s meeting were far more subdued than those at the last council meeting.
But many still pressed the city to take action.
“We are looking for answers. We are looking for leadership,” said Corine Mack of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP. “We can't stand to see another African-American killed with no one being held accountable.”