Charlotte City Council on Monday unanimously approved a $379,500 contract with the Washington, D.C.-based Police Foundation to facilitate community dialogue and review the police department’s response to protests and civil unrest after police fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott in September.
But the contract doesn’t call for the foundation to look at how the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s culture and procedures could have affected the Sept. 20 confrontation with Scott. It also doesn’t call for a review of the department’s decision to wait four days to release dash camera and body camera footage from the shooting – a decision that Mayor Jennifer Roberts later said showed a lack of transparency.
The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting and whether police acted appropriately in using deadly force.
But community leaders and some experts have questioned whether police could have de-escalated the situation, in which police said they saw Scott in his car with marijuana and a handgun. CMPD said its officers repeatedly told Scott to drop his gun; police said he was shot when he didn’t follow their orders to drop his weapon.
Rob Tufano, a CMPD spokesperson, said the contract with the Police Foundation will only focus on community dialogue and the response to the protests.
A week after the shooting, protesters assailed City Council during a public forum. They cursed at council members and at Mayor Jennifer Roberts and demanded changes to CMPD.
A shaken City Council wrote a letter on Oct. 3 that addressed the concerns. Council members said they would build more affordable housing and spend $1 million on a jobs program. To handle questions about CMPD, council members said they would hire the Police Foundation.
The contract calls for three focus areas:
The first phase is to create a “community advisory board” of government, business and community leaders.
The second phase is to “organize structured listening sessions with members and leaders of the community in conjunction with CMPD.”
The final phase is a “critical incident review” of the department’s response to protests and demonstrations.
After the Scott shooting, Charlotte was convulsed by two nights of violence.
Hours after the shooting, protesters shut down Interstate 85 and stopped 18-wheelers. At least one truck was looted and its contents set on fire in the highway.
A day later, protests began peacefully uptown. But a group of protesters then marched toward the EpiCentre entertainment complex and looted stores. One protester, Justin Carr, was shot and killed. Police have arrested another protester in the shooting.
Some bystanders were beaten by protesters. Several officers were injured.
The foundation will review whether the police used too little force or too much. After the civil unrest, Roberts said she thought CMPD struck “the right balance” in maintaining law and order and allowing people to protest.
Council member Greg Phipps asked CMPD Chief Kerr Putney whether the department is conducting its own review.
Putney said CMPD also has its own investigation. He said the Police Foundation review is “our opportunity to do it outside and objectively.”
The foundation, founded in 1970, has been hired for other high-profile reviews. The organization recently reviewed the Ferguson, Mo., police department and the North Charleston, S.C., police department after police shootings of African-Americans.
It has a group of 55 “executive fellows” who advise foundation staff members. Citynewswatch, a blog, reported Monday that one of the fellows is former CMPD chief Rodney Monroe, who retired from the department in July 2015.
Charlotte Assistant City Manager Ann Wall said Monroe will not be involved in the review, which will likely take several months.