No major changes to CMPD’s search warrant policies, community activists still take it as sign of progress

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 6:39 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department says it can only go so far when it comes to policing reforms.

The department was asked to re-examine certain policies after last summer’s protests.

Most recently they’ve been looking at how officers handle search warrants.

At the urging of a national movement called “Campaign Zero,” CMPD agreed to recommendations on wearing body cams during searches and the department banned “no-knock warrants” last year.

But there are some things Chief Johnny Jennings and “Campaign Zero” don’t agree on.

Jennings says putting too many limitations on how and when an officer can serve a warrant too much could potentially put an officer and others in danger.

“We’re going to continue to look at policy changes down the road as long as we have the safety of our officers and safety of our citizens in mind when we conduct them,” said Chief Jennings.

A police reform group called “Campaign Zero” recommended several changes.

Some like banning “no knock’ warrants and requiring body worn camera were already in place within CMPD.

The group though also recommended things like requiring officers to wait 30 seconds for a response before entering a home during a search warrant, only serving search warrants during the day and stopping the use of flashbangs, among other recommendations.

“No departments across the country has been able to meet the criteria by Campaign Zero in reference to search warrants,” said Jennings.

CMPD is choosing not to adopt several recommendations. Because of that CMPD earned a score of 5.5 on “Campaign Zero’s” 12-point scale.

“I would be against limiting any time frame. Some might need to be done at 2 in the morning for a particular reason. Some need to be done at 7 a.m. for a particular reason. We’re very intentional on the times we several particular warrants,” Jennings said.

Since Chief Jennings took over, he’s hasn’t been afraid of new ideas from the community. Community leaders have taken notice and say it’s a sign of progress.

“With Putney, who I thought was a good man, the answer would be ‘no that can’t be done.’ With Chief Jennings, it’s ‘we’ll look at it. It may or may not get done, but I’m open to the discussion,” said Robert Dawkins with Action NC.

Community leaders say the open dialogue and CMPD’s willingness to listen is a huge step forward even if they didn’t adopt all the policies yet.

“It’s not that we’re trying to totally get rid of the police department. We’re trying to make them as accountable and transparent to fit the city we want to live in,” he said.

Community activists tell me they will continue to push for further police reforms especially when it comes to search warrants believing that reforms will make it safer for both officers and citizens.

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