U.S. Rep. Alma Adams and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Kerr Putney came together Thursday to address community concerns over gun control and police practices.
Adams and Putney both gave introductory speeches at the forum at Johnson C. Smith University. Adams spoke on the need for gun control, Putney on how the community is already empowered to keep police officers accountable and to bring change.
“Our goal is for everyone’s safety,” Putney said.
Adams told the audience about joining Rep. John Lewis, a famed civil rights leader, on the floor of the U.S. House to fight for gun control.
She cited the loophole that allowed Dylann Roof, who would go on to shoot nine people at a church in Charleston, to purchase a gun last summer. She said it was cases likes this that show a legislative failure to protect citizens.
“We sat down on the floor to stand up for justice,” she said about the congressional sit-in.
The bulk of the evening was an open forum where community members were encouraged to ask questions and to voice any of their praises or critiques.
A majority of the questions were directed at Putney, who is not unfamiliar to these kinds of events. Over the past month he has spoken at community gatherings and has encouraged other officers to do the same.
“I am not looking where we are coming from, I am looking where we can go to,” he said.
Some participants asked about best practices when dealing with the police. Putney stressed the need for respect and conversations between all parties.
He also said the community has powers to keep the police accountable, citing the Citizen Review Board, which was created by citizens to monitor the police.
He said he loves it when officers live in the communities they work in.
Garrick McFadden, a youth pastor at Reconciling the World Ministries, said his father is a detective with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. He is using what he knows about the police to reach out to kids he works with through the church.
“Don’t come in believing what you see on TV” about police officers, he said.
Adams was praised for reaching out into immigrant communities worrying about deportation.
Putney said CMPD is under local jurisdiction and has nothing to do with immigration issues unless someone has committed a crime.
Ana Miriam Carpio Vazquez, founder of United National Hispanic Alliance, asked about policing in Hispanic and undocumented immigrant communities.
Adams called for the release of Pedro Arturo Salmeron, a Charlotte immigrant teen who is being detained on a temporary stay from deportation.
Adams directly told Salmeron’s mother, who was at the forum, that she believes her son is innocent.
Tyler Fleming: 704-358-5355, @tyler_fleming96