City council members discuss police oversight, videos in legislative agenda

City council members discuss police oversight, videos in legislative agenda

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Monday afternoon City Council members gathered to discuss several issues that have risen to the forefront of community discussions about trust and policing.

The Intergovernmental Relations Committee was set to review items on the 2017-2018 legislative agenda. Those include adding subpoena power for the Citizens Review Board which oversees appeals on complaints against police; and the state law restricting access to police videos from body cameras and dashboard cameras.

A state law went into effect October 1st, requiring a court order to release police videos. Previously, releasing such video was up to the discretion of a police chief or city government leaders.

The law was heavily scrutinized in the wake of the Keith Lamont Scott shooting in September. Charlotte Mecklenburg Police say Scott was armed when an officer fired several shots, killing him. Protests erupted uptown for several days as community activists made demands concerning police accountability.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The video was provided to WBTV and other media outlets by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. WBTV cannot authenticate at this time that the video and audio hasn't been edited or altered before it was provided to the station.

Chief Kerr Putney released parts of the body cam and dash cam video within a few days of the shooting in response to the outcry, and after getting approval from the SBI that releasing the video would not compromise the investigation. Putney released all the video the following week.

If Putney had waited until October 1st, he would have lost that discretion.

Putney has also said the Citizens Review Board provides accountability and oversight of his department. Over the past three years, reforms have been made to the CRB giving board members more information about the police complaint cases they review on appeal.

Now, board members receive the complete Internal Affairs file surrounding the complaint against an officer and it's easier for citizens to request and have a hearing.

Community activists say the Board's power still doesn't go far enough. Robert Dawkins with NC Safe Coalition wants the CRB to have subpoena power and authority to independently investigate cases apart from CMPD. He also says the Board should have disciplinary power.

Board members should be elected, said Dawkins, not appointed by city council.

Council member Ed Driggs says the addition of the police recordings and CRB items to the legislative agenda is a response to the community outcry.

"City council is very concerned about some of the things that were raised and have happened. We want to make sure we have full transparency and disclosure," said Driggs, who chairs the Intergovernmental Relations Committee. The committee's recommendation to add the items will now be voted on by the full council. From there, any change will be up to lawmakers in Raleigh.

Since its inception in the late 1990's, the board has ruled in favor of police every time, including after recent reforms. Documents from the City show that citizens have been able to have more hearings compared to previous years.

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