After Keith Scott shooting, CMPD is reviewing its use of force policy

Keith Lamont Scott
Keith Lamont Scott

The Citizens Review Board has asked the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to consider reviewing its use of force policy and conduct formal studies on reaction time during armed standoffs, according to excerpts of recommendations released Friday by the police department.

The board’s recommendations come after a three-day hearing in August on the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, who was killed almost exactly a year ago at a University City apartment complex. The board split 4-4 in a vote on whether CMPD Chief Kerr Putney erred in his decision that Officer Brentley Vinson followed department policy and procedure when he shot Scott.

In a separate vote, the board decided unanimously to make recommendations to CMPD about changes in department policy – but the board said it would not release those recommendations. CMPD published excerpts of the recommendations alongside its responses Friday. The department said it could not release some of the recommendations because they relate to specific officers.

The board recommended that CMPD consider incorporating de-escalation techniques into its use of force policy, writing that the Los Angeles and Seattle police departments have already done so.

In its response, CMPD wrote that the department is reviewing its use of force policy.

“CMPD has begun a review of its use of force directives and continuum with an eye towards providing additional guidance that assists officers in making critical decisions related to the use of force,” the department wrote.

Still, CMPD wrote, armed suspects may be considered imminent threats.

“In an armed encounter, we have very limited options,” Putney said Friday.

The board also urged CMPD to conduct “empirical studies” about reaction time during armed confrontations.

Specifically, the board asked CMPD to answer this question: When an officer is pointing a gun at an armed suspect whose gun is not pointed at the officer, is it possible for the suspect to shoot the officer before the officer could react?

CMPD replied that the department has done internal tests and now will contact a third party with “scientific expertise” to do more testing.

The board also asked CMPD to develop clear guidance about vehicle takedowns, which is when police vehicles suddenly block a suspect’s vehicle to limit its movement, and when to break a window. CMPD said it is reviewing its current practice and whether the department needs to issue more guidance.

CMPD received the recommendations Tuesday, and all the recommendations have been given to the Scott family, Putney said. He doesn’t intend to speak to the Scott family about the recommendations, and said he wants to give them the opportunity to continue to heal from the shooting.

With the anniversary of the shooting approaching, Putney said he expects demonstrations in the city to remain peaceful.

“What I anticipate is there will be a lot of emotion, a lot of lawful protests, and that’s fine,” he said. “Anything else, and we’re going to have to address it.”

Jane Wester: 704-358-5128, @janewester