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Charlotte unveils civil liberties directive for police

City Council member Claire Fallon, who heads the city’s community safety committee, told the Observer on Thursday that she’s suggested that City Manager Ron Carlee hire as police chief Kerr Putney, the longest-serving of the department’s five deputy chiefs..
City Council member Claire Fallon, who heads the city’s community safety committee, told the Observer on Thursday that she’s suggested that City Manager Ron Carlee hire as police chief Kerr Putney, the longest-serving of the department’s five deputy chiefs.. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

In an attempt to avoid the racial strife that has hit some American cities, the city of Charlotte unveiled Monday a civil liberties proposal that the city said would reinforce existing policies inside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

The city attorney’s office has crafted a resolution that focuses on prohibiting “arbitrary profiling,” but also touches on issues such as how police will handle protests and demonstrations.

The City Council did not vote on the resolution, which will be considered at a future meeting.

The profiling question is considered the heart of the resolution.

Police Chief Rodney Monroe has said in the past that the department’s existing policy prohibits profiling. But the police have not tracked complaints from residents about profiling, he said.

Deputy Chief Kerr Putney told council members Monday that the department has hired a data specialist to track and analyze such complaints and look for trends among officers.

For the first time, the city would allow the Citizens Review Board to consider complaints about profiling.

The resolution would also outline how the police would handle protests. Police would not be allowed to question a group about its social, political or religious views. Police would not be allowed to seize a camera or a phone of someone recording an interaction with police.

“If you have an iPhone you are welcome to record,” Putney said.

The resolution says the police would “purge data in a reasonable period of time unless relevant to a criminal/civil proceeding.”

That refers to information harvested from police street video cameras, license plate readers and cellphone interceptors. The resolution does not list a specific time at which that information would be deleted.

Council member Ed Driggs asked Putney whether the resolution would hinder officers’ ability to work.

Putney said it would not.

“Our officers are concerned about the timing of everything that’s happened around the country,” he said in a reference to rioting in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore. “It’s OK to lead the way.”

Earlier this year, City Manager Ron Carlee expedited a $7 million CMPD request for police body cameras. He said the resolution would solidify the department’s community relations.

He told council members Monday that at the start of every meeting they recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Carlee said the resolution would ensure the phrase “with liberty and justice for all” would have no “footnotes or asterisks.”

The resolution also states that CMPD would not play a role in enforcing federal immigration laws. Putney said the city wants to build relationships in the community, and having people worried about their immigration status “hurts the trust.”

“To do someone else’s job puts us at a disadvantage,” he said.

At-large council member David Howard asked how CMPD will let a resident know about the resolution of complaints. He said it’s important to know that their concerns have been taken seriously.

“We need to do as far as the personnel laws allow us,” said Mayor Dan Clodfelter. “We need to be able to tell citizens as much as state law tells us.”

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