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Charlotte City Council member Braxton Winston to introduce policy change to ‘defund’ chemical agents used by CMPD

Updated: Jun. 5, 2020 at 9:10 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte City member Braxton Winston plans to introduce a policy change Monday that will stop spending on chemical agents used by police for dispersing crowds during non-violent protests.

“City Council can take a major step toward reforming policing in Charlotte on Monday - and set an example for America,” Winston said. “You’ve seen our police department, and departments across the country, release clouds of tear gas into crowds protesting the killing of George Floyd, stinging eyes and causing marchers to remove masks in coughing fits in the middle of a health pandemic.”

Winston says he will introduce the motion Monday that will recommend adjustments to police spending and policy. Winston says he is making a substitute motion to direct the administration not to spend money on new or existing stocks of chemical agents used for crowd control in 2021.

The announcement comes after city leaders questioned CMPD’s actions during a June 2 incident caught on video by a local alternative newspaper during uptown Charlotte protests over the death of George Floyd. Since Friday, police say CMPD’s Internal Affairs has received 50 complaints on officers, 49 of which were received Wednesday.

Winston tweeted the video Tuesday night, captured by Queen City Nerve, a Charlotte alternative newspaper, showing the incident in question.

“The deployment of chemical agents in Charlotte needs to end tonight,” Winston tweeted.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation will conduct an independent review of CMPD procedures related to incident. CMPD Chief Kerr Putney made himself available to answer questions from the media Wednesday at 5:45 p.m. Putney says he will petition to release the body cam video of Tuesday night’s incident. He says it will “show the full picture.”

Below is the motion propsed by WInston.

”I am making a substitute motion to direct the administration not to spend money to acquire new or maintain existing stocks of chemical agents used for crowd control and dispersal in Fiscal year 2021. Since there does not appear to be a specific budgetary line (these chemical agents are aggregated under “equipment”) we are directing the city manager to work with City Council and CMPD to create a City Council oversight committee and process that scrutinizes and adjusts police spending and policy.”

Winston says this won’t address the arsenal of chemical agents for crowd control that police currently have stockpiled, “but we hope this will be the start of a conversation that will fundamentally change the ways police engage with our community and citizens.”

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department addressed and updated its current directive policy as the community and city leaders questioned their tactics during Tuesday night protests.

Police Chief Kerr Putney added language to the department’s current directive policy to address ‘Neglect of Duty.”

Putney said the added language says that “officers will take appropriate and immediate action in any situation in which they know or should have known their failure to act would result in an excessive response to resistance or egregious behavior which shocks the conscience.”

The department tweeted Wednesday night saying Putney would “immediately” petition the courts for the release of videos associated with Tuesday night’s 4th Street incident at the conclusion of the SBI’s review.

CMPD gave their account of the incident on Wednesday afternoon.

“Just before 9:30 p.m., a group of several hundred protesters who were given several orders to disperse because of the violent criminal activity they were engaging in throughout the night marched up 4th street. A coordinated operation involving riot control agents to disperse the crowd was undertaken,” CMPD said on Wednesday.

CMPD said Wednesday they have requested an independent review of the incident by the State Bureau of Investigation to “ensure there is an objective set of eyes to determine if CMPD actions were lawful.”

Chaz Beasley, the state representative for North Carolina House District 92, expressed his anger over the video clip on Twitter.

“I am absolutely FURIOUS with @cmpd right now. This video shows @cmpd firing upon peaceful protestors with tear gas, flash bangs, and pepper balls from THREE sides. Trapped against a bldg w/ nowhere to go. I refuse to stand for my constituents being attacked like this,” Rep. Beasley said.

Two-term Charlotte city councilwoman Dimple Ajmera said she talked to City Manager Marcus Jones and he said the incident will be investigated.

Charlotte City Council Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt responded to the video.

“It’s not ok. And we need answers,” Eiselt said.

Another video also surfaced from Instagram users, @unclejut and @sp1vey, in a post that said a group was “strategically trapped and ambushed by CMPD last night.”

UNC Charlotte student who survived the April 30 shooting on campus, Drew Pescaro, responded to the incident on Twitter Wednesday.

“You saved my life and I will forever be thankful and in debt for that. But the actions that you used tonight were unjust and should be reviewed by a third party to ensure fairness. You cornered and attacked citizens at will. You’re better than this,” Pescaro said.

After all of the responses and questions about the video circulating on social media, CMPD issued a statement via Twitter saying the incident is under internal review.

“We are internally reviewing the circumstances that developed this evening on 4th Street to ensure policy and protocol were followed,” CMPD tweeted.

This was before their announcement of an independent review from the SBI.

The Fraternal Order of Police issued a statement Wednesday, saying they “support the CMPD response to resistance being used against protestors displaying active aggression.”

“The City of Charlotte is once again at the center of civil unrest. The Fraternal Order of Police supports peaceful protests to stop social injustice. Unfortunately, peaceful protests have turned into violence towards innocent citizens, property owners, and law enforcement officers. The FOP supports the CMPD response to resistance being used against protestors displaying active aggression. Our officers have had rocks, bricks, commercial fireworks, and glass bottles thrown at them. Officers only deployed less lethal options after these types of assaults occurred on officers. Councilman Braxton Winston wants CMPD to stop the use of chemical munitions. This decision is not up to CMPD. This decision is up to those individuals assaulting our officers and our citizens. Officers are sworn to protect people and preserve order. We will not accept members of this community who assault others and cause anarchy. Councilman Winston was seen on social media with those throwing rocks and bricks at officers. The majority of head leadership positions in Charlotte are held by minorities. Councilman Winston has the perfect opportunity to use his position to address social injustice and be a role model for other cities. However, Councilman Winston continues to disrespect his position by standing alongside those criminals trying to burn down the city. There have been several officers injured during this protest already. Thank you to all the citizens who continue to show support for law enforcement. We will stand strong and support the actions needed to protect this community,” the statement read.

CMPD’s Wednesday statement continued, with police expressing their feelings that there was no “intentional abuse on the part of our officers.”

“There is nothing to indicate whatsoever that there was intentional abuse on the part of our officers. In the interest of accountability, It is regrettable, and something we take seriously. We have an enormous responsibility to ensure all of our operations are carried out with precision. We as an organization need to learn from this incident, and redouble our efforts to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to keep the community, protesters and officers safe. We are a learning organization and always working to identify opportunities to serve our community better,” the CMPD statement read.

There are currently no officers on administrative leave in reference to protest-related incidents.

CMPD Chief Kerr Putney speaks to crowd of people at Government Center calling for answers and accountability in police-community relations in Charlotte. https://bit.ly/2A1EYNr

Posted by WBTV News on Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Putney promised not to use chemical agents on protesters if there is no violence.

City Manager Marcus Jones says regardless of the outcome of the SBI investigation, CMPD will review their policies.

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