CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Internal Affairs investigators with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police say the department knows that transparency is important to the public.
"We realize that the public's trust can be damaged if we're not thorough, if we are not transparent and we're not open when we're doing our investigations and the information we're providing to the public," Major Stella Patterson said.
The unit completed its annual report for 2016, according to Patterson. CMPD says there were more than 600,000 police interactions with the public last year.
Major Patterson, who is the commander of Internal Affairs, says her unit received 189 complaints about police officers in 2016. She says 147 complaints were from officers against other officers. The public accounted for 42 complaints.
Patterson says in 91 percent of the cases, Internal Affairs investigators found violations and evidence to prove it.
"Of all the allegations of misconduct we had, the ones we saw the most were violations of our policies, or rules, issues with our driving, and also neglect of duty," Patterson said during the weekly police briefing.
While 2016 saw a drop in the number of complaints of use of force, the department experienced an increase in the number of cases where officers fired their service weapons.
"We had 12 officer-involved shootings in 2016, and in each of those instances the subject we were dealing with - and we got out and we encountered – had pointed a weapon or were armed with a weapon themselves," Patterson said.
"Five of those 12 cases resulted in fatal injuries to the subject," she continued. "In all of our officer-involved shootings, the District Attorney's Office reviews them to see if there's any misbehavior on the part of the officer. Our District Attorney's Office concluded on all the ones they reviewed that the officers acted lawfully. We had one that was out of county - and that was in Catawba County - and they determined as well that officer's behavior was lawful."
Police say they're focusing on de-escalation training to give officers additional tools other than the use of force to handle situations.
"We started that about 2014. I believe that's one of the reasons why we've seen a reduction in our use of force over the past two years is because of that emphasis on de-escalation training," Patterson said. "So, we'll continue to do that. Right now we're not doing any policy reviews, but we're continuing to do some of our training, hoping that will continue to trend down."
Gene Winchester used to be a part of the Cops and Barbers police-community outreach effort. The way he sees it, perception is reality.
"The numbers are numbers," Winchester said. "I don't believe that the numbers present the actual facts or what the people are feeling in the community, you know? Or the community's perception, you know? Is their reality? And I believe, you know, the numbers don't tell the community's perception or their reality."
Winchester says he believes some people have decided not to file complaints against officers.
"I don't see a better relationship. I think a lot of things that go on outside the City of Charlotte kind of aggravate the situation even more," he said. "When you hear about officers shooting unarmed motorists and then going to court and getting off, you know that has an effect on other cities around the country."
Winchester says police need to keep talking with residents.
"I think it's always good to have open dialog with the people that's in charge of your city and your community," he said. "It opens up the relationships - and the relationships are what makes your community grow and your community stay at peace."