Fraternal Order of Police ‘torn’ after City Council stops CMPD from buying tear gas

Charlotte City Council under fire for tear gas decision

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #9, responded Thursday to Charlotte City Council’s resolutions creating new oversight over CMPD and the banning of purchases of chemical agents such as tear gas for the next year.

The council’s motions were made Monday night in response to local and nationwide protests over police abuse and the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

The motion that got the most attention, and received the most debate by council members, was made by councilman Braxton Winston to ban the purchase of chemical munitions and charge a city council committee to oversee police spending. The ban does not prevent Charlotte police from using tear gas for crowd control during the current protests.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg FOP Lodge 9 said they were “torn” when watching the council’s proceedings Monday.

While they were appreciative that the budget was adopted securing recommended salaries and benefits for CMPD, they say they were “extremely disappointed” with Winston’s motion that no budgeted funds be used to purchase or maintain chemical agents, saying those are “an effective non-lethal tool to aid in the dispersing of crowds.”

“CMPD has been dealt a hand by Charlotte City Council where an effective and necessary tool has been removed. What City Council has done without debate or input from all parties involved is create a very serious problem with no solutions. CMPD has been told to do without an effective tool and figure out a different way of doing business that will suffice to Council (whatever that may be),” the letter states.

FOP said while they pray it never happens, the lack of this tool could result in future injuries or deaths of officers or citizens, as well as the destruction of property.

“Should this occur, the responsibility and liability will rest solely on the shoulders of the City Council members who voted in favor of the motion,” the letter states.

You can read the letter in its entirety below:

The use of chemical munitions came under scrutiny after video shot by Queen City Nerve showed protesters on 4th Street trapped by tear gas on both sides of the street.

“Our police chief has said that without chemical agents police will be forced to use batons to break skin and bones the people of Charlotte have said that is not a sufficient answer,” Winston said during Monday’s council meeting.

Charlotte Budget Director Ryan Bergman said police spent $103,000 on chemical agents last year.

Council’s two republicans, Tariq Bokhari and Ed Driggs, were the only members to vote against the budget motion.

Bokhari said he couldn’t support the motion but that he would be supportive of other actions such as identifying better ways to remove bad cops.

“I actually agree at taking a long, hard look at tear gas to see if that’s the only way but it feels like right now in this motion and other things we’ve heard council say it sounds like we want to do this to the police and not with the police.”

Larken Egleston said that no one on council should feel blindsided by the motions since they were worked on over the weekend in collaboration. Egleston also said that while this motion doesn’t pass unjustified guilt on the actions of police before an investigation is completed it should give the benefit of the doubt to protesters on 4th Street who were tear gassed.

“We make sure that when there are people who are in the streets or anywhere in our community raising their voices for justice that we don’t punish or presume guilt on that entire crowd based on the actions of a few people,” Egleston said.

Council passed two other resolutions creating oversight over the police department.

Councilman Malcolm Graham proposed a motion that created three new initiatives.

1. City Manager to provide City Council full report on interaction between CMPD officers and protesters on June 2.

2. Request city manager to provide recurring report on complaints of excessive force against CMPD officers.

3. Host hearings on policies and procedures on de-escalation policies of police.

Councilman Larken Egleston entered a resolution to make sure Charlotte Mecklenburg Police were in line with policies and procedures in the “8 can’t wait movement” although he said the police department is already in line with some of the goals.

The #8cantwait" movement is a push to get police departments to adopt policies banning the use of choke holds and requiring a duty to intervene.
The #8cantwait" movement is a push to get police departments to adopt policies banning the use of choke holds and requiring a duty to intervene. (Source: Campaign Zero)

FOP also addressed the talks surrounding defunding CMPD in their letter.

“We are disturbed by the talk of defunding/disbanding police agencies. Our professional opinion is that defunding CMPD could very well further compromise the safety of our community and officers,” the letter reads. "Councilman Driggs said it exactly right. Your motion took a ‘gratuitous dig at police’. "

“The defunding of the CMPD is something that could be worked on for sure, but your comments are one that furthers an “us versus them” mentality,” it continues. " Rather than working to bridge the gap of distrust between the community and the police your words are widening the gap. In a time when recruitment and retention of qualified law enforcement officers is getting more and more difficult, your comments and actions are making it near impossible."

“CMPD is not sitting back on its heels hoping for things to turn out for the better. CMPD continuously implements programs, training, directives, procedures, and protocols to ensure we are doing what we can to best serve the citizens of Charlotte and to have a first rate police department.”

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