CMPD, city refuse to release report detailing June 2 tear gas incident

CMPD withholding use of force report

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and City of Charlotte have refused, for months, a request to release the use of force report detailing actions by police officers during the June 2 protests.

Under CMPD policy, any use of force is documented in a report detailing the type of force that was used and why.

WBTV first requested reports related to CMPD’s actions against protesters on the night of June 2 in Uptown on June 25 and has reiterated that request several times since.

Through a spokesman, CMPD’s lawyer has said the reports cannot be released because they are considered personnel records.

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But a provision of the state’s personnel law regarding city employees allows additional information to be released if the release of information “is essential to maintaining public confidence.”

Under the law, that decision must be made by the city manager with the concurrence of the city council.

CMPD has not requested the city manager or council take steps to release the June 2 use of force report.

Separately, WBTV sent multiple emails to Mayor Vi Lyles and every member of the city council asking if they would concur on releasing the report from that night.

Just four council members responded in any way to the inquiry and none of the city’s elected leaders would state on the record whether they supported the release of the report.

“They have the ability to do it but it takes a little bit of courage, a little bit of political courage,” Brooks Fuller, an attorney who runs the North Carolina Sunshine Center said.

“There’s nothing more important than the public being able to know when that force is deployed, how it’s deployed and, if it’s deployed wrongfully, what the city has done to remediate that.”

Related: CMPD releases video, disciplines sergeant over ‘inappropriate’ comments during June 2 tear gas incident

In response to WBTV’s request, a CMPD spokesman provided a list of complaints stemming from the use of force that night.

  • Complainant stated that they had to run through the gas canisters to leave and was shot with pepper balls
  • Complainant stated that police blocked complainant’s path and started shooting pepper bullets at him
  • Complainant stated that gas dissipated while she was crossing College St, s shot in the top of the head by an unknown projectile.
  • Complainant stated that she struck on the back of her elbow by a pepper ball.
  • Complainant stated that she was hit with something from the air and people were saying “they’re shooting, they’re shooting.”
  • Complainant stated they were struck in the face, forearm and back.
  • Complainant stated that they needed a can to move and couldn’t couldn’t breathe because they were in so much pain.
  • Complainant stated that officers lined up in front and threw flash bangs and smoke.
  • Complainant stated that flashbangs and smoke bombs were thrown on College St. and she was trapped on 4th St.

The spokesman said each of the complaints were determined to be unfounded and not a violation of department policy.

But without access to the complaint, there is no way for the public to know all of the information upon which CMPD leaders cleared the officers of wrongdoing.

And, in an interview with WBTV last week, Chief Johnny Jennings said investigations into the complaints were ongoing when asked if the department would release the use of force report.

“I can’t answer that right now, that’s still in the process, still in the due process: the Citizens Review Board, also Civil Service, all of that is still in play,” Jennings said. “So, I can’t say right now what’s going to be released and what won’t.”

There is nothing in the state personnel law that references any of the proceedings Jennings listed as reasons why he could not release the report.

In late August, a judge ordered video from the June 2 incident be released, in response to a petition by CMPD. But the video does not include any details from the command staff that decided to deploy tear gas and omits other key details not captured on the video provided to the public; details which are likely included in the use of force report.

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