Not much – and certainly not enough – is different in Charlotte 51 weeks after the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott and the nationally televised street protests that followed.
That was the majority view Wednesday night of a six-person panel representing community organizers, scholars, activists, the city of Charlotte, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
“I think we’re the same as we were,” said Willie Ratchford, executive director of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee. “I think we are still at a point in this community where the very thing that happened after that shooting can happen again.”
Systemic racism, a lack of trust by some of the police department and the plight of those Charlotteans struggling with poverty were among the issues members of the panel identified as needing much greater and more urgent attention.
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“We’ve got to do some more work around trust ... around understanding ... and around vision and planning,” said Susan McCarter, an associate professor of social work at UNC Charlotte, who added that some agencies and institutions in the city are reluctant to study their own data for fear that it will show discrimination.
But Vicki Foster, CMPD assistant chief, said the police department has worked hard since last year to improver transparency, reach out to at-risk young people and train officers against bias that could affect their work on the job.
Still, she said, “we’re at a place where, whatever we do, it’s not going to be enough. ... I’m not here to say we’ve done everything, but we’ve done a lot.”
Also on the panel was Ash Williams, who is an organizer with Charlotte Uprising, which has been in the forefront in protesting police shootings in the city.
Williams, too, argued that the city has not come very far in the last 51 weeks, suggesting Charlotte’s progress be measured by the narratives of people like Scott’s widow and people whose family members were shot by Charlotte police this year.
Another activist with Charlotte Uprising attended wearing a t-shirt, “CMPD killed Justin Carr.” Carr was killed during the protests last year and police have charged a man in that case.
Wednesday’s panel discussion was held at the uptown Mint Museum, sponsored by PNC Bank and put on by QCity Metro and The Charlotte Post – two news outlets whose coverage area is the city’s African-American community.