Community and police brass meet for a frank discussion

CMPD and NAACP working on police relations

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - For the community members who attended the forum, 'CMPD Conversation with our Charlotte community', there was no holding back.

One man said, "every time I get pulled over I know there's a fear that overcomes me."

"What is it about black skin that makes a threat?" a woman asked. "What is it that when you're approaching someone with black skin that the situation can't be de-escalated but they have to be murdered?

Another man wanted to know about training.

"That officers are not automatically and systematically trained to kill with no other option in subduing a victim," he said. "How do you assess the real current or undercurrent of emotions in this very civil and calm society called Charlotte."

The forum, held by Charlotte Mecklenburg NAACP and Safe Coalition, was attended by Police Chief Kerr Putney and some members of his command staff.

Chief Putney "As far as policies, we just adjusted our use of force policy and the preface is maintaining the sanctity of life. We're stressing de-escalation."

The Chief said "we don't want to have to use force. We understand our mission is totally oppose to that. It's not escalating a situation. It's about de-escalating a situation and that's what we're stressing but I can tell you it's a process."

"I wish I could say 100 percent of them get it right 100 of the time. But they're human and they don't" the Chief said.

"We are developing training that will start being released to all 849 sworn and over 400 civil employees in our organization starting in August. "We have ongoing training, year old deep dive into cultural proficiency," Chief Putney said. "Training is not going to touch your heart. This is more introspection. If your heart is in the wrong place, I can't train bias out of you. But we all have bias so we're saying you need to acknowledge it and then we need to come up with tools to mitigate it."

A young woman asked the police leaders taking questions, "how do you guys feel about all the shootings that's happening?"

"It made me sick when I see something like that happen. I'm a policeman. I'm here to protect. I'm a guardian of this community. I take this job very serious. This is a love that I have, Major Brian Cunningham said. "So when I see something like that and an officer misbehave we carry that. We're hurting as a department. We're hurting as a profession. This is a different time in policing. It really is. This hard conversation needs to happen."

Chief Putney said  "what we're doing over the next 90 days is we're going to hit the pause button because cops in this jurisdiction especially those on the night shift – 2nd and 3rd  - are going to come out and meet you where you live, talk to you. I want you to get to know them. I want you to hit them in the heart, hit us in the gut. We have to feel this. We gotta come to your community and get to know you personally, proactively, not responding to call. So that's what we're doing over the next 90 days."

One of the young men at the forum said "honestly, I'm going to be real with you. I'm not convinced by y'all."

Several people expressed skepticism that police will try to bridge the gap of mistrust and anger with the community.

One young woman who said she grew up in a military finally and is accustomed to seeing uniforms, is having a hard time with police.

"I'm scared. I'm scared of being in you all's presence right now and I'm scared of you guys but I'm fearful for you " she said.

Capt Chuck Henson of the Hickory Grove Division asked the young woman to come sit beside him. She did. They shook hands and she remained there while Capt Henson talked to the crowd.

The forum last almost four hours.