Politics & Government

Police union: Mayor’s comments on recent shooting ‘stirred up resentment’

The Fraternal Order of the Police said it was “disheartened” by comments Mayor Jennifer Roberts made after this week’s fatal police shooting.
The Fraternal Order of the Police said it was “disheartened” by comments Mayor Jennifer Roberts made after this week’s fatal police shooting. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte’s police union president said he was “disheartened” by comments made by Mayor Jennifer Roberts after police shot and killed a man they said had a gun Wednesday.

Roberts on Wednesday wrote a tweet said the shooting was a “tragedy.” She said she had spoken with the mayor pro tem and city manager, and “we are working together with the chief to make sure there is a full and transparent investigation. My heart breaks for the family.”

Mark Michalec, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 9, said he “couldn’t believe she didn’t include the officers involved” in her initial statement.

“I didn’t know if it was overlooked,” he said. “I was hoping she meant to include the officers. I had a number of officers who approached me about it, and I was fielding calls all day.”

On Thursday, Roberts tweeted that she had spoken with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney and “conveyed my support for the officers and their families. Will continue to monitor the investigation.”

Michalec sent Roberts an e-mail Thursday about her comments.

He wrote that her initial comments “leads one to believe that there is not much confidence int he ability of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department...to do their job properly.”

He added, “There was also criticism about the comment you made about how your heart breaks for ‘the family.’ We’re sure that you meant that comment to include all families involved, not just the deceased. The officers that were forced into that situation and were made to make a split second decision should have your heart-felt sympathy, for sure.”

He said he appreciated that she sent a second statement that supported the officers families, but her “initial comments stirred up a great deal of resentment.”

Roberts was asked about the FOP’s comments during a campaign rally Friday morning.

“Clearly I am in full support of our police chief,” she said. “It’s political season. People are going to put out political things.”

In a statement Friday night, Roberts said, “When it comes to someone losing their life it is critical the city be as open and transparent as possible. ...When Charlotte experiences a tragedy, transparency is essential for building the trust that keeps both our officers and community safe.”

The Democratic primary is Tuesday. Roberts is facing two prominent challengers, in Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles and State Sen. Joel Ford.

After news of the shooting broke Wednesday, Lyles wrote on Facebook that she was “gathering information about the officer involved shooting in Northeast tonight. My prayers are with the family. I will keep everyone updated as I learn more details.”

On Thursday, Lyles revised that post to read that her prayers “are with the family and everyone impacted by this trauma. I will keep everyone updated as I learn more details.”

Ford wrote on Twitter Wednesday night that his “prayers are with all involved.”

City council member Kenny Smith, the likely Republican candidate, did not comment on the shooting on a his Twitter or Facebook page.

Roberts has a strained relationship with the police, stemming from the Keith Scott shooting nearly a year ago. After two days of protests and riots, Roberts called the Justice Department to investigate the shooting. She also criticized the city for waiting four days to release body and dash camera footage from the shooting and said the city needed to be more transparent.

Michalec said the police and Roberts have not improved their relationship since then. He said the mayor did not compete for the union’s mayoral endorsement, and that Roberts did not attend interviews or fill out a questionnaire to help the FOP make its decision.

The FOP endorsed Ford and Republican Kenny Smith.

“To be honest she hasn’t really done anything,” Michalec said. “She didn’t come to answer to do any of the interviews or answer our questionnaire. I don’t know if it was a conflict or not.”

Police said they responded to a report of an armed man at the Hunters Pointe Apartments in northeast Charlotte at 9:10 p.m. The man was outside the apartment complex, police said.

Putney said the man had called police to say he had a gun. Officers came and saw a man with his hands in his waistband, according to the chief. They gave verbal commands to raise his hands, Putney said.

“At some point, one of his hands is raised,” the chief said. “They see a weapon, a handgun. They perceive a lethal threat that’s imminent, and at least two officers we believe right now fired their weapons.”

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs