Mayor Roberts: Lack of transparency in Keith Scott case was unacceptable

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney and Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts field questions from the media last Thursday after two nights of protests.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney and Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts field questions from the media last Thursday after two nights of protests. GETTY

By now much of Charlotte has seen the videos of the tragic death of Keith Scott. Calling his death a tragedy is at once a universally acknowledged truth and an insufficient response to police shootings across the U.S. and in Charlotte that we must do more to address.

The lack of transparency and communication about the timing of the investigation and release of video footage was not acceptable, and we must remedy that immediately. I have talked to officials in Loretta Lynch’s Department of Justice to monitor the investigation into Mr. Scott’s death, and to review CMPD use of force procedures more broadly. Our city must be more open, honest and transparent in investigating police shootings if we are to restore trust.

When I ran for mayor, I did so on the promise that I would work to bring opportunity to every corner of our city. I am proud of the work we are doing in expanding opportunities for children in critical after-school time, helping eliminate discrimination and supporting small-, women- and minority-owned businesses. But the response to last week’s shooting shows that there remains a great deal of work to do in earning back the trust of communities that for too long have been underserved and mistreated. That is why I am calling for an immediate reversal of the State of North Carolina’s new law that prohibits releasing dash and body camera footage to the public without a court order. In a time where community trust is so low, we cannot afford to go backwards.

I know that an increased commitment to transparency and accountability coupled with a Justice Department review into our procedures will help point to changes we can make to ensure that we live up to our promise of spreading opportunity and restoring trust.

In the coming days, weeks, and months I will lead a series of town hall meetings across the city to discuss with our community what we can do better in providing transparency and accountability. I look forward to leading the implementation of the opportunity task force recommendations about what we can do to spread opportunity across the city. We will hear many important ideas, but now with renewed focus we must commit to implement them.

Our police officers are tasked with an immensely difficult job. They serve a remarkable, vibrant and changing community. Their response to last week’s crisis and their hard work to protect all citizens is a testament both to their training and their love of this city.

I am as optimistic as I have ever been about Charlotte’s future. The progress we have made in my lifetime has made us a more just and equal city. But as both the tragedy of Keith Scott’s death and the community’s response show us, much work remains. Together we can bridge the divides that separate us as a community, and restore the trust of those who feel left out and left behind. But in order to do that we must do more than listen, we must pledge to work together to take action to remedy those injustices.

Jennifer Roberts, a Democrat, is the mayor of Charlotte.