Chief promises fair treatment

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Rodney Monroe acknowledged Monday that some Charlotteans worry about the way police treat young black men.

But Monroe, Charlotte's first black police chief, told about 250 people at The Urban League of Central Carolinas that his department will treat suspects the same, regardless of age or color.

“Each person,” he told the predominantly black crowd, “has to be dealt with as an individual.”

Earlier Monroe had told reporters, “I'm not going to allow anybody to mistreat anybody. It's not going to happen. Not on my watch.”

Monroe began work as chief two weeks ago in Charlotte, a city where recent high-profile police incidents have strained relationships between police and some in the black community. Organizers said they hope Monroe can ease some of the strain.

“He's in a unique position to bridge a lot of those social gaps,” said Patrick Graham, the president and CEO of the Urban League, a nonprofit agency that advocates and runs programs for black urban residents. “He won't be the answer, but he'll be part of the answer.”

The Urban League sponsored the reception for Monroe, along with the Black Political and Black Women's caucuses of Charlotte-Mecklenburg and the John S. Leary Bar Association, an organization for black lawyers. The purpose was to give members of the groups and the black community a chance to meet the chief, Graham said.

But Graham said recent incidents – such as a police officer's fatal shooting May 20 of Aaron Winchester, a 21-year-old black man – highlight what he called the “divide” between police and some of the people they serve. The shooting prompted the Rev. Al Sharpton to visit Charlotte last month to question the way police investigate shootings.

“It's a concern. It's always a concern. But it's not just African Americans, it's across the board,” said Reggie McKnight, a Charlotte lawyer who attended the reception. “I don't expect (Monroe) to issue any standing order to treat African Americans any different. I just want everybody treated the same.”