Council members, activists criticize Police Foundation report on Keith Scott protests

Politicians on both sides of the aisle are disappointed in the report

By Steve Harrison, The Charlotte Observer

Charlotte’s $380,000 report to study the police’s response to the Keith Scott protests was panned by activists Monday, and even criticized by some City Council members and Mayor Jennifer Roberts, who said the Police Foundation’s study is lacking.

The City Council hired the Washington D.C.-based group to study the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police’s response to the protests that turned violent – not the confrontation with Scott on Sept. 20 of last year.

The foundation gave City Council a presentation of its draft report, which some activists said was too easy on the the police. Some council members and Roberts also said the consultant needed to give the city more recommendations about how to handle a similar situation in the future.

“I would like to see some more meat,” said Roberts, a Democrat.

Roberts said the report should have covered issues like the city’s decision to call the National Guard as well as whether the city made the correct decision in calling a curfew two days after the shooting.

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On the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 21 – hours after protesters shut down Interstate 85 – former Gov. Pat McCrory offered Charlotte the National Guard if the city would declare a State of Emergency. A team that included Roberts, then City Manager Ron Kimble and Police Chief Kerr Putney decided not to seek the state’s help.

That night, several police officers, protesters and bystanders were injured when protests turned violent uptown. One person was shot and killed.

Shortly before midnight on the 21st, the city declared a State of Emergency. The National Guard arrived the next day, and protests were mostly calm after that.

Frank Straub of the Police Foundation said he didn’t review that decision because he was only hired to review the police department’s actions during the protests. The foundation didn’t consider the debate over calling the National Guard a police decision, even though police chief Kerr Putney was part of the team that made the decision.

But Straub said he can add more to the report before a final version is released.

Republican Ed Driggs said he also wanted to see more detail. He said he wanted “more tangible” recommendations from the foundation.

“On (the city’s communication with social media) we know it was a mess,” he said. “The questions is, will the remainder of your work say, ‘Here is something you did, here is a better way to do it.’ ”

Driggs asked whether all people would feel as though whether their concerns were addressed – even if those concerns were based on rumors and not true.

“Put yourself in the shoes of the critics, and see if their concerns are acknowledged,” he said.

Corine Mack of the Charlotte NAACP said Driggs’s comments were “on point.”

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She said the foundation was hired to do “what the city wanted it to do,” which wasn’t enough, she said.

The report was mostly complimentary of how CMPD handled the protests.

Steve Knight, minister of Mission Gathering Christian Church in Charlotte, said after the presentation that he was upset that the consultant said social media was responsible for making the protests turn violent.

“I’m disappointed but not surprised,” he said.

He and other activists believe that CMPD responded too aggressively and inflamed an already tense situation – an allegation the police department said isn’t true.

Activist Braxton Winston, who is running for City Council, said the report relied too often on newspaper articles for its research. He said he felt the report told CMPD it was “doing a good job” and to “not change anything.”

Straub said CMPD correctly followed its policies and procedures during the protests, and that officers he interviewed recognized they had to strike the balance between giving people the freedom to protest while also protecting property and people.

“When we talked to officers at the initial scene they said they recognized this balance,” Straub said. “As the number of community members grew, the police recognized the need to being emergency officers to the scene. But by doing so, they recognized that would escalate (the situation).”

Roberts, Driggs and Republican mayoral candidate Kenny Smith pushed the foundation for more recommendations. Other council members, like Democratic mayoral candidate Vi Lyles, said they wanted the foundation to look at larger issues and problems in the community.

LaWana Mayfield and Claire Fallon did not attend the meeting. Patsy Kinsey and Dimple Ajmera did not have a question or comment for the Police Foundation.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160@Sharrison_Obs

This article was originally published by The Charlotte Observer.


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