Community changes made after Keith Lamont Scott shooting - | WBTV Charlotte

Community changes made after Keith Lamont Scott shooting

(Dedrick Russell | WBTV) (Dedrick Russell | WBTV)

Charlotte city leaders say there has to be a new normal after the Keith Lamont Scott case. After Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray cleared Officer Brentley Vinson for shooting and killing Scott, protesters took to the streets. 

City leaders wanted to do things differently this time around to give people a voice. The community claims that didn't happen after the September 20 shooting.

RELATED: Charlotte officer will not face charges in shooting death of Keith Scott

"We had people who complained to us that we did not feel like we had an adequate opportunity to have our say to the community," Community Relations Committee Executive Director Willie Ratchford said.

Ratchford's team came up with the idea to create a place where people could come and voice their opinion. That didn’t happen September 20. About 70 people showed up at the Belmont Regional Center Wednesday night to speak their minds and said they liked the idea.

"Thank you for doing this," Ratchford said. "This is a good thing. We are glad we had an opportunity to actually hear from people who felt the way we felt about the situation and to do so in a public way."

Ratchford believes making this change proves Charlotte is growing up and learning a valuable lesson. He said the city can't just move on after the shooting. He said moving on means going back to the way things were, and that it's time for Charlotte to move forward.

"Moving forward means in this instance that we as a community have to recognize that we are not going to go back to normal - the old normal," Ratchford said. "A new normal means having different voices at the table, now that we work together - that we respect one another and we look at a common future for the community as opposed to as a future for individual segments of the community."

Establishing a place for the community conversation is not the only thing that's different. Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) is also making changes. About 40 officers now make up the new constructive conversation unit. They started Wednesday night as protesters filled the streets again.

Their assignment is to walk the crowd and engage the protesters. Officer J. Felipe had a conversation with a protester. He asked why did he show up.

"It's because I have been harassed by the police since I was 16, and he is about 30 years old and this was the boiling point for him," CMPD Officer J. Felipe said.

Felipe kept talking to the protester. He answered his questions and even took criticism. The officer believes the one on one conversation did the trick.

"I think lowering the tension made a difference," the officer said.

The officers for the new unit were chosen because they can handle people yelling and cursing at them. CMPD said they will use the unit again when protesters with high energy are present.

Leaders believe these changes will prove to the community they are listening to them, but they recognize more needs to be done to make things better for all.

"This can't be about window dressing," he said. "There has to be substantive change in regards to institutions and systems and structures. We need to get people in this community - everybody to feel that they are a part of the community, that they are respected."

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