CMPD’s Kerr Putney, others converse with citizens in fifth ‘Cops and Barbers’

More than 100 people spent two hours Sunday in a church recreation center discussing how police officers and civilians can better handle potentially controversial interactions with minorities.

Sunday’s event at an east Charlotte church was the fifth “Cops and Barbers” town hall meeting. The public meetings have been going on during the spring and seek to spark dialogue between officers and the communities they police.

Police showed a video of routine police interactions and had officers and people from the community discuss what might be going on in the minds of the participants.

In one scene, an officer investigating a string of burglaries stops a pair of teens. During the interaction, he asks the teens to take their hands out of their pockets.

“We don’t know what they have in their pockets,” said Capt. Jim Wright, who heads the Eastway Division. “Maybe they’re fixing to run. Maybe they have a gun. Maybe they have a knife. If their hands are out, we’re safe.”

But Shaun Corbett, a local barber and one of the organizers, said the teens in the scene could view it as harassment.

“Why does it take two police cars to stop me on my way home from school?” he asked the crowd. “We’re tired of being picked on. We’re tired of being harassed.”

Charlotte and the nation are engaged in a conversation about whether officers are too quick to use deadly force – especially against minorities.

Officer-involved killings in Baltimore, New York, North Charleston, S.C., and Ferguson, Mo., have made international headlines and sparked protests in recent months.

Charlotte cases have also caused outrage. Earlier this year, the Mecklenburg County district attorney decided he wouldn’t charge the officer who fatally shot Janisha Fonville, a mentally ill woman, in February.

The Charlotte community also is closely watching the case of Randall Kerrick, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer who shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed black man, in eastern Mecklenburg in 2013. Kerrick’s voluntary manslaughter trial is scheduled for this summer.

On Sunday, police already were trying to encourage people to be civil during the court proceedings.

“We have a trial coming up,” said Deputy Chief Kerr Putney. “We have to do a lot of work between now and then because we have a lot of folks coming from the outside who aren’t having these conversations, who aren’t caring about the same issues. All they’re caring about is coming, trying to break our stuff, maybe trying to get on CNN.”