CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney is speaking out in his first one-on-one interview since a Charlotte police officer was involved in a shooting that left a man dead.
Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was shot and killed in northeast Charlotte. The shooting happened last Tuesday at The Village at College Downs apartment complex on Old Concord Road.
CMPD says plainclothes officers were in the area to serve a warrant on another person when they encountered Scott. That encounter ended in Scott being shot and killed.
Following the shooting, Charlotte has seen multiple days of protests and marches, violent protesting and even some rioting in uptown Charlotte.
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In the fallout from the shooting, groups and activists have called for Putney and Charlotte mayor Jennifer Roberts to step down.
"This isn't about me, it's always been bigger than me. This is about the officers on the front line doing the work who are being very professional, who are serving their community with honor, who are making a huge sacrifice away from their family and their still trying to communicate and connect with the community - even a community that may have had some trust issues that are related to this specific incident and a history," Putney said Thursday afternoon. "As I've said repeatedly, we have a pretty tough history to overcome as a profession. Our people are rolling up their sleeves, ready to do it and right now we're more inspired to do that work than ever."
Since Scott's death last week, protesters, organizations and politicians have called for the police video to be released to the public.
Saturday, Putney held a press conference and released a portion of dash-cam and body camera video, as well as previously unreleased photos and information about what led to the incident with Scott.
The video released by CMPD shows just over a minute of body camera video and two-plus minutes of dash camera video. Protesters, activists and groups have called for CMPD to release the entire, unedited video.
"We're going to be as transparent as we can be, but what I'm not gonna do is just - because of comments and pressure and politics - allow for something that's not thoughtful, deliberate and I'm not gonna set a precedent that would put us in a conflict moving forward with the law," Putney said about the release of the video.
"Am I always going to release everything to the public when they want it? Absolutely not, that's not the right thing to do. That's inappropriate, that could adversely affect an investigation," he continued. "I'm not gonna do that."
Putney says what he's done in this investigation is wait until the investigation had "progressed enough that it wouldn't be adversely impacted." He said he released "the specifics of the incident that give the facts to people."
"As you see, people are still gonna make up their own minds. That's why there is a decision by the District Attorney and potentially a court of law that can work through what the real facts are and come to some conclusions that would dictate what justice looks like," Putney said.
Some groups of activists have called for Putney to step down in the wake of the investigation.
"I give it as due notice, as due regard, but I don't quit. I'm not a quitter," he said. "I'm gonna see this through. My city deserves that."
"We can listen to voices on either side - your family and friends love you regardless, there's an element that you'll never please - I gotta move the middle," Putney continued. "I gotta make sure people have strong leadership when they need it most and I'm here to serve."
Putney says his officers are working every day to help build the trust back with the community.
"Trust is fickle. You gotta get back up on that horse when it throws you off and that's exactly what we're willing to do," he said.
"It's hard to hate up close. I keep saying that and I believe it wholeheartedly. The more you get to know us, the more you'll get to see we've got a lot more in common than unlike," Chief Putney said. "So we need to continue to shrink that gap, get that close proximity, get rid of the anonymity so that all of us are held accountable and you can see us for who we really are."
Regarding the public having its say in the streets, Putney is among those defending the right to protest but he comes down against lawlessness.
"A lot of time for me, it's a release valve. People have a quick outlet. Unfortunately - and what we don't want to see - is that becomes violent and criminal. You start breaking into businesses and looting and you start assaulting people and officers in particular - it become problematic," he said.
"We have to escalate as well to meet that level of resistance and criminality and bring people to justice. But as soon as we take care of business, what you see is intentionally we deescalate," Putney continued. "We move those people who were in our helmets and protective gear away. We try to establish lines of communication again with our bike officers and the division commander."
Putney says he thinks the city of Charlotte has been metaphorically knocked down and people are waiting to see if the city can get back on its feet.
"I think we can. I think this time we'll get up and be better for it," he said. "But what we have to do - to quote Bishop Claude Alexander is 'deal with that's in the ground." Once and for all, we've got to acknowledge our history as a profession, as a city."
"We gotta stop having surface level conversations about race and injustice. We gotta really dig into that and then we gotta take action," Putney continued. "People are tired of talking - so am I. Let's get to work."
Putney says CMPD plans to "double down" in their engagement with the community.
"Anybody willing to meet us half way, we're gonna work with them to make a better, safer Charlotte."