The civilian oversight board examining the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s investigation into the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott met privately for a second day on Wednesday. Members are expected to come to a conclusion sometime Thursday.
Participants signed confidentiality agreements before beginning the hearing, which deals with whether Chief Kerr Putney erred in his determination that Officer Brentley Vinson followed department policy and procedure when he shot Scott in September, sparking days of protests and dozens of arrests.
If the Citizens Review Board determines that Putney erred, it will be the first time the board has ruled against police in its nearly 20-year history.
Robert Dawkins is the executive director of SAFE Coalition N.C., which has lobbied for reform to the Citizens Review Board for years.
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He said his priority is for the board to be transparent, regardless of what they decide in the hearing this week.
“For the (board) attorney Julian Wright to come out and talk about the process that they used to go through, how they weighed their decision, and for the public to be able to hear a lot of the things that are done behind closed doors,” he said.
In June, the board determined that there was “substantial evidence of error” in CMPD’s decision that Scott’s shooting in September was justified. The hearing that began Tuesday is the next step after that ruling – a chance for board members to hear evidence and witness testimony before making a recommendation to Putney.
Police have said officers spotted Scott, 43, in an SUV with marijuana and a gun outside a University City apartment complex. Vinson told investigators he fired because he feared for his life and the lives of other officers on the scene.
Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray has ruled that the shooting was legally justified and that Vinson would not face criminal charges.
But protesters and some law enforcement experts question whether CMPD unnecessarily resorted to deadly force against a person with a traumatic brain injury that made it difficult for him to follow directions. They also argue that Scott was sitting alone in the SUV and did not appear to pose a threat to anyone.
CMPD policy dictates that officers only use deadly force when faced with “aggravated active aggression,” which includes discharging a firearm, use of a blunt or bladed weapon and extreme physical force.
Experts say it is rare for officers to face criminal charges or stiff internal discipline following on-duty shootings. They said it is difficult for commanders to second-guess officers making difficult life-and-death decisions.
After the hearing ends late Wednesday or Thursday, Putney will have one week to review the board’s recommendation and tell the city manager about any action he plans to take.