Former CMPD chief shares insight on Charlotte shooting - | WBTV Charlotte

Former CMPD chief shares insight on Charlotte shooting

(Michael Rode | WBTV) (Michael Rode | WBTV)

Chief Darrel Stephens retired from CMPD eight years ago and Charlotte remains his home.

He’s executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, has worked with President Obama’s task force on police reform, and consulted for the Department of Justice during the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri.

As a police chief, he also dealt with riots in 1996 in St. Petersburg, Florida after a white officer shot a black man during a traffic stop.

Stephens knows policing and current Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney.

“It's an incredibly difficult time for a police chief to walk through this and help the community understand this,” said Stephens about Putney. “He doesn't have the luxury of time and that's the big problem for him,” he added.

In the first days following the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott on a Tuesday afternoon, Putney said he would not release the video until the investigation was complete to protect its integrity.

After public pressure mounted, protests continued and the State Bureau of Investigation said the release would not affect their work, Putney released a dash cam and body cam video by the weekend.

Gone are the days, Stephens said, when police chiefs could wait on releasing dash cam or body cam video. His own position has changed over the years.

“I would be much quicker in releasing what I could, when I could, even if the investigation isn't completed,” he said.

He and many chiefs have changed their position, in part, because of competing narratives driven by social media.

Family members and protesters have said Keith Lamont Scott had a book not a gun, that CMPD switched officers, and that the gun was planted.

All of that is contrary to what CMPD has said about their investigation publicly. None of the assertions have been put to rest by the release of video.

“If you have experiences with the police or you believe the police are one way, it's much easier to accept the idea that he acted improperly,” said Stephens about Officer Vinson, who CMPD says fired his weapon and struck Scott. “Hopefully the investigation will be able to provide some clarity to that,” he added.

The past few years especially, CMPD has worked on community engagement through neighborhood forums and town halls. The goal has been to reduce tension and racial bias. The work was supposed to help in times of conflict. Some in the community have wondered if the work is now undone.

“I don't think it's gone down the drain at all. It's always mattered in Charlotte,” said Stephens about the community engagement work.

He knows confidence is shaken, but he believes an overall good foundation with police will help moving forward.


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