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More than a year later, some Safe Coalition NC, NAACP requests of CMPD unmet

Two community organizations are again pushing for policy changes within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to ensure black lives are protected.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Despite a promise to uphold the sanctity of life, a commitment to de-escalate, independent state review of every officer-involved shooting, and increased training and oversight, community organizations say the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department needs to make more policy upgrades to improve the black community's trust. 

Some of their requests for CMPD have remained outstanding from more than a year ago.

"I want to see action," Robert Dawkins with Safe Coalition NC said Monday.

Following the police shooting of Danquirs Franklin last year on Beatties Ford Road, both Safe Coalition NC and the NAACP outlined changes they wanted to see. 

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CMPD listened to those stakeholders and made some changes based on their input, but did not take action on Dawkins' request for a duty to intervene policy.

"That's the type of not just transparency, but accountability that the community is looking for," Dawkins said.

That kind of policy would require officers to act when they witness an injustice, especially at the hands of a fellow officer.

"We suggest that officers should have a Duty to Intervene stated in the use of force policy with wording that states that (it's) an officer's duty to intervene if a fellow officer is using excessive force, not giving clear instructions to a suspect or not deescalating a volatile situation," Dawkins said in a May 9, 2019 email to CMPD Chief Kerr Putney.

Chief Putney said CMPD was still grappling with the idea of a stand-alone duty to intervene policy as he outlined the agency's commitment to de-escalation at a media briefing last November. 

At the time, he emphasized CMPD had since strengthened its neglect policy.

"The idea of putting into writing the duty to intervene assumes that we don't do that already," the chief said at the time. "...If you as an officer had the opportunity to stop this from escalating, our expectation is you do so and if you fail to that's neglect of the duty we expect of an officer."

In a statement Monday, CMPD again raised concerns about such a policy.

"A directive requiring secondary officers to intervene presents a multitude of challenges," CMPD said. "It would be unrealistic and potentially dangerous to require secondary officers to intervene during an armed encounter and determine whether a primary officer's control methods are reasonably necessary in every situation. Requiring officers to immediately intervene and assess whether a lesser degree of force would be appropriate is not practical, as frequently, circumstances are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving. "

Dawkins said CMPD's response "just does not hold water."

The NAACP, meanwhile, asked CMPD to rename patrol officers "peace officers" and requested psychiatric evaluations of officers and recruits in April 2019.

"They can actually turn over full investigations to outside investigators to background each and every officer, because their extracurricular activities will tell you who they really are," NAACP President Corine Mack said. "In my mind, peace officers has gone out the window, they have taken on a more militarized stance."

Mack also said CMPD, now more than ever, needs to work harder to build trust and prevent the next death.

"We have lost all trust," Mack said. "You have some that are so vicious and so brutal to us, we don't even think about the person that's decent to us anymore. We're talking about trauma that has never been addressed, hurt that has never been addressed, fear that has never been addressed."

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In a lengthy response, CMPD said the agency continues to try and improve.

"The CMPD is a learning agency. The department continually works to identify opportunities to keep the community and officers safe..." the agency said. "...The CMPD recognizes that public trust is a critical element in maintaining strong communities and crime prevention. The department is committed to cultivating both trust and accountability by advancing responsible transparency whenever possible."

CMPD's Full Statement:

Both State and Federal law require that all force be reasonable, as outlined in Graham v Connor. North Carolina state law serves as the basis for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's (CMPD) Response to Resistance policy.

The CMPD policy requires officers to employ de-escalation techniques when feasible in encounters with members of the public.

The CMPD Response to Resistance policy defines de-escalation as: Tactics, techniques, actions, verbal, or non-verbal communication exercised by officers during a potential use of control encounter to reduce the imminence of a physical threat to officers or others. These tactics should be used when time, distance, communication, available resources and circumstances permit.

The CMPD is a learning agency. The department continually works to identify opportunities to keep the community and officers safe.  

All CMPD officers receive extensive de-escalation training summarized below:

•           CMPD recruits receive (8) hours on Communication Skills and (16) hours on Crisis Intervention. 

•           Recruit classes also conduct as many as (16) hours of scenario based training where they are taught communication skills to de-escalate hostile victims and suspects.

•           CMPD incorporates a component of communication into training courses, but department recognizes the need to go beyond that and talk specifically about de-escalation strategies.  

•           Several lessons include specific strategies involving the:

o          Management of Subjects in Extreme Distress

o          Juvenile Minority Sensitivity Training – Interactions and Communications 

o          Use of Force De-escalation

•           Classroom Training- Tactical Communication

•           TAC-7 training that instructs officers how to communicate and de-escalate situations involving subjects with edged weapons and use the appropriate level of control

•           Weekly Patrol Division de-escalation training

•           Chaos to Connection training: This course provides officers with skills to connect with people that are in a highly agitated emotional state.

•           Crisis Intervention Training:

o          Approximately 600 patrol officers are currently (CIT) certified which represents approximately 50% department's patrol force 

o          The national average of CIT officers in major city police departments is approximately 25%.

In an effort to provide a humane, compassionate and an effective law enforcement response to crises involving community members with behavioral or substance abuse issues, the CMPD created a Community Policing Crisis Response Team (CPCRT)

The CPCRT involves mental health clinicians that accompany officers to incidents involving a behavioral health and or substance abuse crisis. The CPCRT is responsible for:

•           Assigning cases for proactive follow up involving persons with a history of behavioral health issues resulting in police response.

•           Providing referral, educational and support services information to family, friends and members of the consumer's support network

•           Responding collaboratively to calls for service concerning community members experiencing a behavioral health crisis. 

The CMPD is implementing a Senior Police Officer II (SPOII) program.  SPOII's are required to:

•           Complete 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Training

•           Complete eight hours of Tactical Medical Training for First Responders

To further the department's commitment to de-escalation, the CMPD is currently constructing a "de-escalation training facility" that will allow officers to develop additional de-escalation scenario-based training in a "real time" environment.

In 2019, the CMPD updated the department's Response to Resistance policy. 

•           The updated policy underscores the department's commitment to advancing a culture of guardianship that embraces a warrior spirit in protecting the community and those we serve.

•           The updated policy also outlines the department's philosophical commitment to the preservation of human life and to only deploy control methods when it is reasonably necessary.

•           CMPD sought the perspective of stakeholders (CRB, CMPD external advisory committee, SAFE Coalition NC and the NAACP) to ensure independent perspectives were considered when updating the policy.

The CMPD will continue to routinely assess policy and training to ensure officers master the department's commitment to de-escalation.

The CMPD rejects the proposal to support legislation granting the Board or any other party subpoena power which will compel officers to attend and testify at evidentiary hearings.  

Currently, the Board is provided the opportunity to review CMPD internal investigations which includes statements of officers and independent witnesses provide in the internal investigation.

It is the findings of both the internal and criminal investigations that guide the Chief's decision on potential disciplinary measures that that the Board is authorized to review. 

The CRB, as an advisory board, reviews the Chief's decision on discipline. The CRB's scope of review does not allow the board to conduct an independent fact finding inquiry. 

The Board has the ability to request additional information concerning Chief's decision and the ability to make recommendations to the department.

It is the CMPD's position that subpoena power is neither necessary or prudent.

The CMPD rejects the recommendation requiring officers who are the subject of a complaint to attend evidentiary hearings.

An officer should (be) afforded the legal right to decide whether or not they will attend and testify at the full evidentiary hearing.  

The CMPD cannot and should not require an officer who is the subject of a CRB review to attend evidentiary hearings.

Plaintiff's attorneys frequently leverage the evidentiary hearing process to seek a legal opportunity to file civil action against an officer.

Requiring the Officer to attend and provide testimony against the advice of their private legal counsel denies the officer his or her right to due process.

Regardless of an officer's attendance at an evidentiary hearing, the CRB has access to the complete investigation including the interviews and statements of the officer, secondary officers and independent witnesses who were present at the time of the incident.  

Additionally, the CRB currently has the authority to seek additional investigatory information from the department for further information they may need to conduct their review. 

The CMPD rejects the position that the department's failure to adopt a policy requiring officers to attend evidentiary hearings undermines the Board's purpose.

The CRB is an advisory Board and the Board's purpose is to review the Chief's decision which is based on the internal investigation.

It is not the Board's purpose to conduct a separate and independent fact finding investigation.  The board has neither the necessary training or expertise to conduct such an investigation.

The Board should not undervalue its power to advance change by making objective recommendations to the CMPD.

The Charter allows the Board the opportunity to make these recommendations. There have been several occasions that the CMPD implemented significant changes based on the Board's recommendations.

The CMPD respects the integrity and value of human life. The department believes that human life is sacrosanct and the goal of any encounter with the public is reinforced with the unwavering commitment to the preservation of life.

CMPD officers are provided extensive training in tactics, techniques, actions, verbal and non-verbal communication to de-escalate potential violent encounters with the public.

A directive requiring secondary officers to intervene presents a multitude of challenges. It would be unrealistic and potentially dangerous to require secondary officers to intervene during an armed encounter and determine whether a primary officer's control methods are reasonably necessary in every situation. 

Requiring officers to immediately intervene and assess whether a lesser degree of force would be appropriate is not practical, as frequently, circumstances are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving. 

In 2015, The CMPD updated its Courtesy Policy to include a provision that advances greater opportunities for de-escalation and utilizes less than lethal options.

The provision prohibits officers from:

•           Taunting

•           Verbally baiting

•           Initiating needless or unnecessary physical contact with a subject

Additionally, the CMPD's Response to Resistance Policy which was updated in November of 2019, re-emphasized the policy's provision requiring an officer who witnesses another officer engage in a use of force to immediately report the incident to a supervisor. 

The CMPD will continue assessing policy and training to advance the  department's commitment to the preservation of life.

The CMPD continually reviews, identifies, and archives Body-Worn Camera (BWC) video footage for training material. 

The department's Professional Standards Unit as well as patrol division supervisors are required to consistently audit videos to ensure oversight and accountability.

Identified videos are bookmarked and archived in a library of training videos. The videos are incorporated into training plans to elevate the understanding of options available during these types of dynamic and rapidly evolving encounters.

CMPD already incorporates scenario-based training for recruits and officers at every available opportunity. 

All officers are annually trained on effective methods for gaining compliance from an individual who possesses a weapon that is not visible to the officer(s).

One challenge in developing training scenarios is trying to account for every variable and dynamic of human interaction. 

The circumstances presented in this incident (presumed armed subject) will be incorporated into our selection of decision-making and de-escalation scenarios. 

The videos from this incident will be incorporated in to the scenario based training.

CMPD will continue to train officers in de-escalation beginning with recruit training and continue to identify opportunities to enhance and modify our training to benefit the safety of community members and officers.

CMPD will continue to prioritize de-escalation when reasonable as an option when encountering armed people, or when the subject has the immediate means to injure an officer, another person, or his or herself. 

In managing incidents involving an armed person, CMPD will continue to emphasize that officers are to assess the totality of the circumstances, including actions taken by the suspect. 

For de-escalation to be effective, the armed individual must comply with an officer's commands.  

CMPD will encourage other levels of response to resistance as defined in the policy, to include de-escalation, realizing it will not be effective in all instances.

The CMPD recognizes that public trust is a critical element in maintaining strong communities and crime prevention. The department is committed to cultivating both trust and accountability by advancing responsible transparency whenever possible.

CMPD is committed to making the outlined recommendations and responses available to the public.