CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - After WBTV Investigates reported on some Charlotte council members exploring whether they could increase their own salaries by cutting CMPD crisis intervention training, council sought a course correction and clarification on what their intentions were.
At a budget meeting Wednesday Councilman Braxton Winston requested adding city council pay raises to the FY2020 budget to make them even with Mecklenburg County Commissioners.
Councilwoman LaWana Mayfield then asked if Winston’s request could be funded by a proposed cut she wanted to make to the CMPD Accelerate Training budget from $2 million to $1 million. City budget staff said that couldn’t be done since the police training money was one-time funding and council salaries are a recurring expense. Mayfield also suggested that $250,000 of that funding go to support corridor development from Tuckaseegee Rd to Nations Ford Rd.
Councilman Matt Newton then followed up by asking how long $1 million in funding would last to increase city council salaries but that idea was again shot down by city staff.
At a budget meeting Thursday council members tried to clarify where they stand on pay raises and CMPD training.
Mayfield said she originally proposed cutting the CMPD training budget because she wasn’t getting specific details about how the training would be implemented. She was also told it was voluntary.
“If you say something is voluntary, voluntary isn’t good enough. We want to make sure all our officers are properly trained so that we have better outcomes with incidents,” Mayfield said.
City Manager Marcus Jones expanded upon what the training was for at the Thursday meeting and said that it would provide an 8 hour tactical medical course for most police officers and allow for additional culturural efficiency training. But he said that alone would cost more than $2 million which is why another $1 million is budget for FY 2021.
“I think in all fairness he (Chief Kerr Putney) needs some time to structure who gets what level of training,” Jones said.
Chief Kerr Putney told WBTV that he plans on bringing mental health experts to speak with city council about the best practices for training.
“How far away are we from every officer having that CIT training?” WBTV asked Putney.
“That’s the confusion. What I want you to know, what I want the community to know is the experts are going to talk in the next month about how it should be delivered and why and if they are to say all of them should get 40 hours of training, obviously that’s what I would want, but that’s not their recommendation,” Putney said.
Winston said he was never supportive of cutting CMPD crisis intervention training.
“Of course I didn’t want any CIT training cut, I’m looking for expansion in CIT training,” Winston said.
Winston also asked if other first responders could receive CIT training such as firefighters.
Ultimately Winston stood by his request for city council pay raises. He said that the current pay rate of $19,809 per year is not enough to encourage people from lesser economic means to run for office.
“That includes working class people who are raising families,” Winston said.
Councilman Matt Newton told WBTV he was out of the room when Mayfield described what her $1 million cut was from and didn’t realize it was related to police CIT training.
“I’m actually in favor of the $2 million in funding, I misunderstood what we were suggesting where the $1 million was coming from yesterday," Newton told council.
Trying to head off an explosive discussion on CMPD training versus city council salaries Councilman Tariq Bokhari made a motion at the beginning of the meeting for city council to take a straw vote on the budget as it was presented by the city manager. Bokhari withdrew the motion after several city council members voiced concerns about moving to quickly through the process.
Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt said she was generally supportive of raising city council salaries but told Winston that this was the first time adding it to the next fiscal year budget was brought to her attention. Winston was the only council member who voted in favor of his motion to increase city council salaries.
Ultimately the only budget amendment that was accepted was from Councilman James Mitchell who requested $50,000 for the Women’s Business Center and deleted $50,000 from the undesignated reserve fund to put the money in place.