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CMPD tracking how often officers pull their firearms

Dept tables plans for holster sensors
Police holster
Police holster(Source: WBTV- Coleen Harry)
Updated: Jan. 15, 2019 at 5:46 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte Mecklenburg Police (CMPD) say the public only hears when officers shoot someone. The department wants to know how often officers remove their firearms or point their weapons at someone.

In 2018 there were five CMPD officer-involved shootings, including two deadly ones.

“All you hear about are the negatives. All you hear about are those times that we can’t de-escalate and we have to do something to save our lives or somebody else,” said Chief Kerr Putney. “You don’t hear about the thousands of times that we encounter people and we de-escalate just fine. I want to capture that. I think it’s only fair to the people who sacrifice to do so."

Police say 2018 was the first year the department began compiling statistics about when officers took out their weapons.

Here is how they gathered the data: when officers respond to calls, body-worn cameras are activated and then officers have to self-report if they pulled out their weapons.

According to CMPD, officers had almost 600,000 interactions with the public in 2018.

Police say 3,754 involved either pointing their firearms or drawing a weapon.

“It is such a small percentage in terms of the times that an officer needs to point their weapon or pull their weapon that we’re seeing some significant improvements with our ability to de-escalate those situations" said Lt Brad Koch.

Lt Koch says that calls such as “attempt to locate, residential breaking and entering, traffic stops, commercial alarms, warrant service, license plate reader hit” make up 53% of when officers removed their firearms.

“For an officer to pull the trigger on their weapon… it’s a deadly force situation,” said Lt Koch. “So their life or another citizen’s life has to be in danger and we had five of those incidents last year so if you look at that in terms of how many times they’ve drawn their weapon with how many times they fired their weapon is a smaller percentage there.”

“Transparency is one issue that people push for. Accountability is another,” said Robert Dawkins. “The only way we can hold accountable and have transparency is if everything a government official does is monitored. Right now we have body cameras that can be turned on or off or forgot to come on or off.”

Dawkins’ organization, Safe Coalition, has been calling for CMPD to use new technology - a sensor that attaches to holsters.

The company that sold CMPD the body-worn cameras also has technology that when a firearm is removed from the holster – a sensor sends a signal to police cameras with a certain range to start recording.

“This would make sure we’re getting all of the cameras once activated and not miss through people rushing and not forgetting to cut them on and we get more of a 360 on what’s going on” said Dawkins.

Dawkins believes the new technology equals transparency – even if no shots are fired.

“I want to see how the interaction went and every interaction isn’t going to rise itself to needing public scrutiny. It might not be compelling public interest,” he said.

Police commanders say the department had been considering using the holster sensor.

“I think it’s something we might address in the future but at this time it’s been tabled and we’re not going to proceed with that in the near future,” said Lt Koch. “We think that our officers do a good job of self-reporting those incidents.”

It’s unclear why the department decided to put off using the new technology.

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