CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte Mecklenburg Police (CMPD) Chief Kerr Putney has said the department is in the process of revamping its policy on use of force. An attorney and a local community activist say they agree the department needs to improve the policy.
"I think it’s a great idea. I think it’s something the department should continuously be re-evaluating in light of how it actually gets applied in the field,” said Attorney Charles Monnett. “What I hope they’ll do is encourage community involvement in that revamp of the policy.”
Monnett has represented families of men who were shot and killed by CMPD officers. He believes the department's use of force policy needs to add communication and improve de-escalation techniques.
“What I mean is we continue to see these events occurring within seconds of time officers arrive on scene. You have to question are they truly using time, distance to their advantage."
“I see a need for greater improvement in communication. Officers are clearly taught to use their voice and the authority of their voice to gain compliance but one of the things we learn as attorneys is that people communicate in different ways and I question whether they’re using effective communication techniques with some of the people they encounter,” said Monnett. “And whether they’re truly giving them time to respond in a way that they want and whether they recognize the pressure particularly a young black male would be under – having three officers pointing a gun at them and yelling – given what’s happened in other parts of the country and the way that young black males have been shot repeatedly by police officers in situations that didn’t seem to demand it.”
Monnett says he watched the video CMPD released Monday of the officer involved fatal shooting that happened last month at Burger King.
Monnett is not representing the family of the man who was killed.
He says in his opinion the video highlights what's lacking in CMPD's use of force policy.
“My thoughts again go back to communication. They yelled the same things over and over again,” said Monnett. “They're not getting a response or the response that they wanted to have. Try something else."
Chief Putney says he wants the department to learn how to de-escalate the way the SWAT unit does - to get suspects to cooperate and disarm themselves.
“All of our people have really embraced this idea of de-escalation more and if you look at our deployments with SWAT - we haven’t had a fatal shooting with SWAT since 2016. They get 80-100 calls a year. They have full deployments 20-25 times a year,” said Chief Putney. “When we can get people to cooperate, when you disarm yourself and we can establish communication we can make it end – we can bring it up safely. Everybody survives which is our preference.”
Putney added “what we’re doing there is we’re making sure - like the mission of SWAT - we continue to emphasis the goal of protection of life. Preservation of life is at our core. And that’s the emphasis around what we’re doing with the new policy for the response to resistance.”
“It would be happy to put it on paper but I don't know if it's going to translate down to all 1800 officers. I'd like to see first what this revamp is going to look like" said Robert Dawkins.
Dawkins, of SAFE Coalition NC says, if there's a dangerous and tense situation, his organization would like to see at least one officer working to calm down a suspect.
“The problem is it always involves somebody dying and then the city figures out a way to look for policy solutions."