Not all civil-emergency unit officers wear body cameras during protests, CMPD confirms

The civil-emergency unit is tasked with controlling crowds and responding to protests, when needed.

Not all civil-emergency unit officers wear body cameras during protests, CMPD confirms

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department confirms to WBTV News that not every officer on the civil-emergency unit (CEU) is equipped with a body-worn camera during protests.

The CEU unit is deployed for crowd control and protests situations.

A representative for CMPD said some officers are wearing body-worn cameras (BWC), including the bike cops. He said other platoon leaders are also wearing them.

CMPD said they have plenty of videos of the protests over the last couple of days.

CMPD said the reason why not all CEU officers are wearing body cameras is that the chest protection they wear makes it difficult to mount the cameras.

The department said they’ve ordered special mounting equipment to accommodate the cameras on the CEU chest protection uniform.

Chief Kerr Putney has promised to petition a judge to allow the department to release body camera video worn by officers during an incident that took place at Tuesday night’s protest.

In protester video, it shows protesters trapped between two lines of police on either side.

Protesters then said tear gas was used by officers.

Protesters, who say the demonstration was peaceful the whole time, crawled under a parking garage gate to escape the gas.

CMPD said in a press release on Wednesday that officers on Tuesday night were being assaulted with rocks, water bottles and fireworks. That prompted them to announce that the protest was an unlawful assembly and send out dispersal orders to the crowd.

In a CMPD directives guide for body-worn cameras (BWC) dated May 8, 2017, it says “sworn employees assigned to CEU will not wear a BWC when wearing CEU chest protectors.”

However, in a 2020 BWC directive, the CEU unit is not referenced once.

It is a possibility that there are other directives for special units, which include SWAT and VCAT. Those directives are not made publicly available.

A CMPD representative said he was not aware of a separate policy directive for the CEU.

In 2018, an independent review was published by the Police Foundation.

They were asked to review CMPD’s response to the 2016 protests over the death of Keith Lamont Scott and make recommendations about how the police department could improve and move forward.

In this review, the Police Foundation cited CMPD’s 2017 policy, saying the CEU “are exempt from wearing BWCs while wearing their CEU chest protectors." The review went on to say that this was not the national standards for best practices.

The Police Foundation recommended that CMPD should equip officers with body-worn cameras, “especially officers assigned to its Civil Emergency Unit (CEU).”

City leaders discussed this at length.

At the time, CMPD said equipping CEU officers would possibly give away strategy and tactic if they video was ever released publicly.

When it comes to the current body-worn camera policy, the latest information we can find it from January of 2020.

Reporters for WBTV on the ground have confirmed that they’ve seen body-worn cameras on bike officers and other officers not wearing tactical gear.

According to the independent review done by the Police Foundation in 2018 regarding the 2016 protests in Charlotte over the death of Keith Lamont Scott, the mission of the CMPD civil emergency unit is "to protect lives and property by maintaining community order during incidents of civil unrest through a contingency that utilizes specially trained and equipped personnel.”

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