IMPACT team cuts through racial tensions

“At about seventh grade, particularly with black boys and policemen, the relationship changes."

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IMPACT is a solution-based news segment to air as problems arise in our community. The IMPACT team is a group of journalists and community activists who work together to solve problems-- large and small-- that affect our viewers. The team embeds themselves within a community to truly understand the problem and show it to our audiences in real and authentic ways-- not your typical news stories. Our IMPACT team implements solutions to have a positive IMPACT in the neighborhoods in which we live. 

Chapter 1: Finding solutions by trading places | Chapter 2: Thoughts from 3 white officers | Chapter 3: Kids speak their mind | Chapter 4: Family to officer: Come on in | Chapter 5: Kids walk in officers' shoes | Chapter 6: Meet the IMPACT team | Chapter 7: Web extra | Chapter 8: Watch the show | Chapter 9: Previous officer involved shootings

Chapter 1: Finding solutions by trading places

September 20, 2016, will forever be a day that rocked Charlotte. That afternoon a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott. The city erupted in protests and riots. The shooting exposed a racial divide and put city leaders to the test.

The unrest in uptown reignited an issue that’s been talked about for years in our living rooms, our dining rooms and even in our newsrooms.

“This is not something new,” said WCNC Anchor Fred Shropshire, regarding the adversarial history of the black community with police.

So NBC Charlotte put together an IMPACT team of community leaders and parents to see what we could do.  How could we make a real impact?

Shropshire took those questions to where a lot of conversations begin: the local barbershop, ‘Da Lucky Spot.’ The conversation was frank.

“In my neighborhood where I grew up at, you just felt like you were already guilty and you didn’t do anything,” said Pastor Derwin Gray, Transformation Church. 

Shropshire recounted a visit to the courthouse with his cousin and grandfather when he was about 10-years-old. His grandfather took them to traffic court and said, “Watch how that young man is dressed and how they treat him.”

It was the beginning of a lifelong conversation about how to conduct himself around police officers. It was a story that others in the room could relate to.

“Racism is a human heart issue,” said counselor Chris McCarthy. “Regardless of color, we all have some racism to deal with and we all have to be humble and to work toward others and breaking down those walls.” 

This conversation is a start.  

The Impact Team gathers to discuss race relations and mistrust between the community and law enforcement.

The biggest challenge? According to Garry McFadden, it’s commitment.

“Everyone’s going to come out during the riots. Everybody’s going to come out after the shooting. But where are you on Monday, Wednesday and Friday? There is zero consistency.”

Shaun Corbett, who created Cops and Barbers, believes in leading by example. 

“It’s on us, as well, because elders, as we get older in the community, we pass that negative thought process down to the younger generation,” he said. “So what happens is you’ll have some kids that don’t even know why they don’t like police. They just know that they don’t. You know what I’m saying? But we also have to, as men in the community, make being an officer an honorable profession again.”

The small group agreed that it starts with building relationships.

Experts say children are the most impressionable around the sixth grade or the start of middle school.

“At a certain age, there’s a crossover in terms of how you see people. So it’s really important to hit them right around that age so as they’re really starting to understand developmentally, psychologically, and they’re starting to understand, 'oh this is a police officer, this what he does, this is his job.' But if there’s no relationship there, they’re going to have a fear response,” said McCarthy.

Derwin said there needs to be a relationship between police officers and kids. 

“At about seventh grade, particularly with black boys and policemen, the relationship changes. It’s not a cute kid anymore."

Chapter 2: Thoughts from 3 white officers

In order to understand where the problems lie, the IMPACT Team wanted to know what white officers think of their relationship with the black community.

We took three veteran officers to dinner for another candid conversation.

“What do you wish the African-American community could better understand about white police officers?” asked Shropshire.

“You would find more white police officers and black officers, officers alike, do more for the inner city neighborhoods and African American communities than a lot of your African American activists that get on TV and talk on camera,” says CMPD Officer Dan Kellough. “The public does not know that. A lot of time when they come after us it’s based on false narratives and that’s what fuels the protests.”

Another officer agreed.

“I’ve not seen community members or activists do anything outside of the protests to move forward,” said Officer Shannon Finis. “It’s kind of disheartening because it stops and doesn’t go further.”

North Charleston patrolman Michael Slager shot and killed 50-year-old Walter Scott after an April 2015 traffic stop. The incident was captured by a witness with his cellphone.

Officer John Frisk with CMPD says he believes that the shooting paints a negative picture of police officers across the country.

“Just for the fact that they guy’s running away and he’s shot in the back. There are very few officers who would do something like that. I got to make that statement because that’s just not normal,” he said.

In order to understand where the problems lie, the IMPACT Team wanted to know what white officers think of their relationship with the black community.

Chapter 3: Kids speak their mind

The IMPACT team went back to the barbershop to meet with parents and kids about the communication barriers between police and the community.

Children NBC Charlotte talked to about the relationship between police officers and the community see both sides of the divide.

“I think they have a difficult job of keeping other people safe because they also have to keep their self safe.”

“The community is always talking negative about the police officers,” Michael said. “They don’t put like everything-- like what happened. They just take parts.”

“I just think kids are misunderstood because, like the parents said, they don’t know what’s going to happen when they pull people over,” James said.

“You think they’re misunderstood. What do you mean by that?” Shropshire asked.

“Some cops have perfectly good reason to shoot people,” he responded.

“I think they have a difficult job of keeping other people safe because they also have to keep their self safe,” Ashton said.

"What is a bad cop?" Shropshire asked.

Ayden responded, “He does stuff before he thinks.”

A father said he has bad experiences with police officers in the past.

“But one of the things that I want make sure that doesn’t happen to them is that I don’t relay some of my negative experiences with police in the past on them. Our job and a police officer’s job is to relay respect,” dad Antoine Burton said.

Tammy Thompson said kids need to get over the persona that being bad is being cool.

“And I think a lot of that happens, you know, at home-- thinking that’s a cool way to act,” she said.

The IMPACT team went back to the barbershop to meet with parents and kids about the communication barriers between police and the community.

Chapter 4: Family to officer: Come on in

The IMPACT team has spent months talking to people about the racial divide that was exposed during the police protests after the September shooting of Keith Scott. The conversations are intended to create a positive impact between police and the African-American Community.

We spoke with leaders in the African-American Community. We talked to kids and parents. Now it was time for police and real families to do the talking to each other.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer John Frisk went to the home of Erica Frazier and her sixth grader Gabby, who attends Mallard Creek STEM Academy.

After exchanging introductions, they sat down not just to talk, but to listen.

The IMPACT team has spent months talking to people about the racial divide that was exposed during the police protests after the September shooting of Keith Scott. The conversations are intended to create a positive impact between police and the African-A

“When Keith Lamont Scott was killed and the riots happened, tell me how you felt,” Frazier asked the officer.

“The first thing I said was, 'I could see this happening in Tulsa', because in Tulsa where the female shot the guy and he had his hands up and there was no weapon involved. I could understand that. But the crazy thing about it was we didn’t see any crazy looting and rioting in Tulsa. But we saw it here and there was a gun involved.  So it was really scary like, 'okay, where are we going in this city moving forward,' because we felt that, 'wow, once again, this would never happen in Charlotte,'” Frisk said.

“You can have a group of white males around doing something and then you have a group of black males doing something. They’re doing the same thing but the black males typically are approached differently. Why is that?” Frazier asked.

“I don’t know if it’s just because over the years of training throughout the country in police culture that, you know what, you get this image of if there’s three or four or five six black kids standing on the corner that they have to be doing something wrong. But that’s probably part of the problem. And I’ll be honest with you, that’s going to take time. That’s going to take time to change and break that habit,“ Frisk said.

“The message that we have to give our children is you have to behave differently, because if you don’t behave differently then your consequences will be fatal. And that’s a hard pill to swallow as a mom because it’s like this is the message that’s being given to my children and I’m concerned about that," Frazier said.

Everyone agreed that to see a shift and a change in attitudes and perceptions, relationships have to be built. 

“That’s the biggest thing,” officer Frisk said. “Officers need to develop relationships with people in their community and without that, we don’t move forward.”

“Our black males are the ones that are being targeted, and it just breaks my heart because I want the officers to be able to have a conversation with my brother and not immediately assume because he’s dressed like this he’s a threat,” Frazier said.

Then they ate dinner together. Everyone agreed that in order to see a shift in attitudes and perceptions that relationships need to be built or nothing will move forward.

Chapter 5: Kids walk in officers' shoes

The sixth grade class at Mallard Creek STEM Academy is taking the first steps to build a better community by participating in the IMPACT project, which is helping to build the first meaningful relationship between police officers and children at an early

The sixth grade class at Mallard Creek STEM Academy is taking the first steps to build a better community by participating in the IMPACT project, which is helping to build the first meaningful relationship between police officers and children at an early age.

The program helps build empathy, as kids get to walk in the shoes of police officers and police officers will get to know the people they are serving.

The class visited the Charlotte Police and Fire Training Academy to better understand an officer’s job. 

Rob Dance, who oversees the training for all CMPD recruits talked to the students. 

“My job is to oversee all of the training for police recruits,” he explained to the students. “One of the things that the police department has really, really pushed for and what we’re trying to do is to be transparent. One of the things that we learned is that oftentimes, we don’t do a great job explaining ourselves of why we do what we do. That often leads to confusion, sometimes frustration.”

“This is what we ask our officers to do each day-- to get out and talk with people and make sure they’re not committing crimes, to make sure that you are safe in your neighborhoods, to make sure that you are safe in your home,” Dance explained.

The students were then brought to a portion of a training academy where they use a simulator.

“You’re actually going to get to see a Taser fired, so follow me,” Dance said.

An officer showed the students how to hold a Taser.

“We hold it like a firearm. You can see when I turn it on you can see two little dots right there.”

The students were taken through several training scenarios.

“There’s going to be some tough decisions you’re going to have to make.”

Even WCNC Anchor Fred Shropshire gave it a try. It was more difficult than anyone expected. After completing the course, the students were brought back to the classroom.

“We just wanted to kind of gather our thoughts after what you guys experienced today and just talk out loud about a couple of your experiences and point some things out,” Dance said.

Children discuss the insight they gained after going through law enforcement training.

What did the students think about the simulator?

“It was hard because you kept telling them to put the gun down, put the gun down-- but his anger was like, he wouldn’t put the gun down, he was like refusing,” one girl said.

“The lesson here is we can’t rewind the situation.”

“I actually found out what you guys have to go through every day. It was scary,” a boy said.

Frazier, who went through the training, said her perspective has changed a lot.

“Initially I kind of went into this like you know, there has to be something that the police could do to police differently. We have preconceived notions about the police and sometimes young men feel like, 'okay, here we go again, they’re going to harass me. They’re going to shoot me,' or whatever.”

One student said, “I could see how hard it is when y'all have to go out on the street and deal with that and take your time to protect us.”

“Now that I did the simulator, I kind of understand what these cops are going through, such as the decisions that they make.”

“If you tell a person two or three times to drop the gun and they don’t, you’ve got to wonder what’s going to happen next,” Major Mike Campana said.

“You’ve just said out loud what the whole exercise, what it’s all about. And it’s to give you a different perspective,” Dance said.

The goal of IMPACT is to get every school in Charlotte-Mecklenburg to go through police simulators because it’s eye opening.

“It gives you a respectful view of what police officers do and it exposes police officers to communities that they might not otherwise have exposure to,” said Shropshire.

“The lesson here is we can’t rewind the situation,” said Dance.

Chapter 6: Meet the IMPACT team

Shaun "Lucky" Corbett

Proud father of four and avid hat collector, 36-year-old Shaun “Lucky” Corbett opened his own barber shop, Da Lucky Spot, in the heart of Charlotte’s uptown in 2010. But the barber provides much more than slick cuts.

Corbett continually contributes to the Charlotte community by hosting annual non-profit events and supports honor roll students.

After watching recurrent conflicts of race relations, such as Ferguson, Corbett knew the mistrust between cops and the African-American community, particularly among the youth, needed to be addressed. He came up with the idea to develop forums for communication between cops and young black people, resulting in the creation of Cops & Barbers.

The effort behind Cops & Barbers is close to Corbett’s heart. Growing up, Shaun had multiple encounters with police from his own involvement with illegal narcotics. He had grown to despise police officers, but after serving multiple sentences in prison, Shaun decided to make a change.
He has certainly done just that.

Shaun frequently works with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney in an effort to bridge the gap between police and young black people. The two have traveled to the White House multiple times together and founded a long-lasting friendship as well as an influential program. Corbett was named one of Charlotte Magazine’s “Charlotteans of the Year” in 2015.

Garry McFadden

With a red candy Corvette and snappy sense of style, Garry McFadden was Charlotte’s own ‘Miami Vice’ cop during his 35 years as a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Homicide detective. But it was his dedication and involvement with the Queen City’s community that gained him recognition.

Growing up in the small town of Elliott, South Carolina, McFadden says everyone knew everyone. When he moved to North Carolina’s big city in 1977, his upbringing led him to keep the motto, ‘things happen in the community, not in the office.’ McFadden became known for passing out donuts to kids around town and holding meetings in local diners.

The connections the 56-year-old built in the community contributed to his successful career. McFadden has investigated over 800 homicides with a 90-percent success rate of solving some of Charlotte’s most shocking crimes.

His outgoing personality, unique style (both in work and fashion) and outstanding career snagged the attention of the Discovery Channel.

Today, McFadden is hosting the second season of the channel’s ‘I Am Homicide’ show where he walks viewers through some of his career’s most difficult investigations while highlighting methods he used to solve the case.

Pastor Derwin Gray

After graduating from Brigham Young University, Gray pursued what he believed to be the “American Dream.” He played professional football in the NFL for five years with the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers.

It was his time in the NFL that led him to discover his true passion: loving God and spreading his message. This love, which drove him to become a Pastor and founder of Transformation Church, was first introduced to him by what he calls the “Naked Preacher.”

Steve Grant, or The Naked Preacher, was a fellow teammate of Gray’s on the Colts. After practice, Grant would shower, wrap a towel around his waist and proceed to approach the players in the locker room asking if they knew Jesus. Watching Grant’s life and spiritual commitment inspired Gray.

“I want to be more committed to you and Jesus,” Grant said on a phone call to his wife.

These words changed the couple’s life path.

Gray went on to form an itinerant speaking ministry, graduate magna cum laude from Southern Evangelical Seminary as well as found the Transformation Church where he serves as Lead Pastor.

The Pastor speaks at conferences nationwide, has written four books and is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry.

Lakisha Williams

The term "community" is the drive behind Pastor Lakisha Williams.

Pastor Williams grew up in Long Island, New York, and moved to Charlotte 14 years ago with her husband. Since becoming a Charlotteans, Williams has put her passion and inspiration of a "community" behind her work in the ministry.

The 40-year-old is a co-pastor of The Core Church, located in a community with several low income, Title I schools.

“I’m driven by the love to see families and individuals reach their full potential,” Williams says.

With education and mobilization as her main priority, Williams co-founded the non-profit organization, The City Bridge, Inc. The organization works to connect the community to needed resources to improve lives.

Chris McCarthy

Known as "the laughing therapist" due to his ability to bring a lightness to sessions, Chris McCarthy has made a name for himself in the psychology community both locally and worldwide.

Throughout his childhood in California, McCarthy had the desire to make a difference in others’ lives. This drove him to obtain a PhD and three Masters degrees in counseling, theology and Christian education. His specialty lies in helping those with anxiety and depression, especially among children and teens.

McCarthy made the move to Charlotte in 1999 as there was a large need for counselors. He has since become deeply rooted in the surrounding community.

McCarthy is a regular guest on Charlotte Today and works with the Transformation Church, the multi-ethnic and multi-generational community formed by Pastor Derwin Gray.

His efforts with the church’s members and children are directed towards teaching leadership and building relationships between individuals from all backgrounds and ethnicities. McCarthy says he believes that people need to purposefully work on mending issues of race relations and appreciates those that do so.

Chapter 7: Web Extra

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney sat down with NBC Charlotte to discuss the importance of establishing relationships with the community-- especially with children.

Chapter 8: Watch the show

NBC Charlotte put together an IMPACT team of community leaders and parents to see what could be done about the racial divide in Charlotte after the Keith Scott shooting.

NBC Charlotte put together an IMPACT team of community leaders and parents to see what could be done about the racial divide in Charlotte after the Keith Scott shooting.

NBC Charlotte put together an IMPACT team of community leaders and parents to see what could be done about the racial divide in Charlotte after the Keith Scott shooting.

The goal of IMPACT is to get every school in Charlotte-Mecklenburg to go through police simulators because it's eye opening.

Chapter 9: Previous officer involved shootings

In the last four years, there have been hundreds and hundreds of officer-involved shootings across the United States; however; only a handful make national headlines. 
 
Here's a look at some of the most infamous cases in recent years.
 

 
- John Geer - August 29, 2013 - Officers were called to a domestic dispute at the home of John Geer, 46, in Springfield, Virginia. During a 45-minute standoff, prosecutors say Officer Adam Torres fired a shot, striking and killing Geer. Geer's body was found with his weapon holstered. Torres claimed, officials say, that Geer lowered his hands, but other officers on scene disagreed. Torres was charged and pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

- John Crawford - August 5, 2014 - John Crawford, 22, was shot by Beavercreek (Oregon) Police Office Sean Williams after picking up a BB gun, which was out of the packing, from a Walmart store shelf. A grand jury declined to prosecute.

- Michael Brown - August 9, 2014 - Authorities say 18-year-old Michael Brown assaulted a store clerk after stealing items and fleeing on foot with friend Dorian Johnson in Ferguson, Missouri. An officer encountered Brown and Johnson in the street and a struggle over the officer's weapon ensued and a shot was fired. Johnson and Brown fled on foot, and Officer Darren Wilson pursued Brown. That's when, authorities say, Brown made a move towards Wilson and Wilson fired several shots. Wilson was cleared of wrongdoing by the Justice Department.

- Jonathan Ferrell - September 14, 2014 - After crashing his car, 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell began banging on the door of a Charlotte, NC, home, prompting the resident to call 911. When officers arrived, dashcam video shows Ferrell running towards the officers and ignoring commands to not move. Ferrell was fatally shot by Officer Randall Kerrick, whose voluntary manslaughter trial ended in a mistrial.

- Tamir Rice - November, 22, 2014 - A 911 caller in Cleveland, Ohio, reported a black male sitting in a swing pointing a gun at people in a city park. Responding officers say 12-year-old Tamir Rice reached for a gun in his waistband upon their arrival; one of the two officers fired shots, striking Rice in the torso. He died the next day. A grand jury declined to indict the officers involved.

- James Howard Allen - February 6, 2015 - A 74-year-old Army vet was fatally shot by officers performing a welfare check at James Howard Allen's Gastonia, NC home. When officers entered Allen's home, they found him with a gun; police said Allen pointed his gun in the direction of the officers, and one returned fire. The officers involved were cleared of wrongdoing and were not charged.

- Eric Harris - April 2, 2015 - Eric Harris, 44, was fatally shot by a reserve Tulsa County deputy who confused his weapon and his Taser during a sting in Tulsa, OK, in which police say Harris was selling an undercover officer a gun. Reserve Officer Robert Bates was found guilty of manslaughter.

- Samuel Dubose - July 19, 2015 - Samuel DuBose, 43, was fatally shot by University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing during a traffic stop for a missing license plate. Tensing claimed he was dragged by the vehicle, prompting him to fire, however, bodycam video disputed those claims and Tensing was charged with murder. His trial ended in a mistrial, however, prosecutors intend to retry.

- Zachary Hammond - July 26, 2015 - Zach Hammond, 19, was shot when undercover officers conducted an operation targeting his passenger in Seneca, SC. He was shot while attempting to flee officers. No charges were filed, but Hammond's family settled a civil suit for $2.15M.

- Jeremy McDole - September 23, 2015 - After responding to reports of a man in a wheelchair with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officers say they encountered Jeremy McDole, 28, who failed to comply with officers about dropping his weapon and was fired upon by officers. Family members said McDole didn't have a firearm. The officers were not charged.

- Corey Jones - October 18, 2015 - Musician Corey Jones was shot standing next to his disabled vehicle on an I-95 ramp in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, by a plain-clothes officer. The State's Attorney's Office said evidence showed the 31-year-old had lowered his legally-carried weapon to the ground was running away when he was shot. Officer Nouman Raja was fired and charged with manslaughter and attempted murder.

- Jeremy Mardis - November 3, 2015 - Deputy City Marshals Derric Stafford and Norris Greenhouse, Jr., said Christopher Few threatened their lives by using his vehicle as a weapon during a several-mile pursuit in Marksville, Louisiana. A judge, however, said the car wasn't being used at the time the officer fired upon-- fatally striking Few's 6-year-old son Jeremy Mardis. Both officers were charged with second-degree murder.

- Alton Sterling - July 5, 2016 - Alton Sterling, 37 - Baton Rouge PD responded to a report that a man selling CDs had threatened someone with a gun. Sterling was shot several times while he was held on the ground by two officers. As of December 5, 2016, charges had not been filed.

- Philando Castile - July 6, 2016 - Philando Castile, 32, was pulled over in St. Paul, MN, for a broken tail light. Castile, who was armed at the time, told the officer he had a permit to carry and had a weapon on him. Castile died after being shot while allegedly reaching for his wallet to retrieve his carry permit. Famously, the aftermath was Facebook-lived by Castile's girlfriend. Officer Jeronimo Yanez was charged with second-degree manslaughter.

- Daniel Harris - August 18, 2016 - Daniel Harris, a 29-year-old deaf man, was shot to death by a NCHP trooper in Charlotte, NC, following a 10-mile vehicle pursuit. Harris was shot after exiting his vehicle in front of his home. Activists argued Harris was attempting to use sign language when he was shot. An investigation is ongoing.

- Keith Scott - September 20, 2016 - Keith Scott, 43, was shot by an African American Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer in the parking lot of an apartment complex. Police say Scott had a gun and refused to comply with directions to drop his weapon. The DA's office said Officer Brentley Vinson acted lawfully in firing his service weapon in the incident.
 

 

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