Crime & Courts

At meeting, CMPD chief says officers more compassionate

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney

Police have been making more of an effort to “lead with our hearts,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney told a standing room-only crowd at a recreation center in northwest Charlotte Sunday, hours before the anniversary of a controversial officer-involved shooting that left a man dead.

“When they talk about the badge being over the heart, it’s over the heart for a reason,” Putney told reporters after the eighth installment of the Cops and Barbers town hall meetings. “We’re going to lead with our hearts. We’re going to connect with our hearts.”

Police began hosting the events in the wake of incidents where officers killed minorities across the country, including in Charlotte. Residents bring their complaints and criticisms about the department to the meetings. Police leaders and organizers try to educate people about what’s going through an officer’s mind during traffic stops and other interactions. The goal: everyone goes home safe.

Sunday’s meeting at the Tuckaseegee Recreation Center drew more than 100 people. It came just weeks after trial of Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick sparked protests and criticisms of the department.

Earlier this month, a jury could not come to a unanimous decision about the guilt or innocence of Kerrick, who was charged with the killing of Jonathan Ferrell. Police say Ferrell was likely seeking help after a car crash in the Bradfield Farms neighborhood near Charlotte’s eastern edge. Kerrick is white and Ferrell was black, and the shooting sparked racial tensions.

Demonstrations are planned for Monday, the two-year anniversary of Ferrell’s killing. And Charlotte residents spoke out on violence by police officers Sunday.

“The way our community is, we’re fighting the police and we’re also fighting each other,” said Paris Bey, the cousin of Janisha Fonville, who was shot and killed by a police officer earlier this year. “I’m done with crying. I’m ready for change.”

Attendees also had harsh words for the community at large after a particularly violent week. Five people were killed in a 24-hour period on Labor Day weekend, and a man was shot dead on the street Thursday afternoon.

“I just went to a candlelight vigil for a 7-year-old child that got murdered,” said Shaun Corbett, a local barber and one of the organizers of the town hall meetings.

“Come on y’all, we’ve got to wake up. CMPD can’t do it by themselves. There’s no way that the community can do it by themselves. We have to do it together.”

Cleve R. Wootson Jr.: 704-358-5046, @CleveWootson