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Recent excessive police force incidents call officer training into question

WCNC Charlotte asked former Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief Darrel Stevens about what it’s like for officers in high-stress scenarios.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The issue of African American males dying by excessive police force has been thrust into the nation’s spotlight after the death of George Floyd, and most recently, Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta.

WCNC Charlotte asked former Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief Darrel Stevens about what it’s like for officers in high-stress scenarios.

“What goes through the police officer’s mind is to use the least amount of force that they can to control the person,” Stevens said.

Stephens said officers are trained to implement time distance and safety measures.

“You try to slow it down, you try to put as much distance as you have between you and the subject, and if you have cover, take cover,” Stephens said.

Still, African Americans are disproportionately killed by police at a higher rate than any other demographic, and Stephens said in the last few years more emphasis has been placed on scenarios and bias training.

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“They’re being trained to recreate situations that they might encounter in the street, implicit and explicit bias training,” Stephens said.

In Charlotte, CMPD police chief Kerr Putney recently updated their use of force policy. It only allows deadly force it if the officer believes they’re in danger of the subject using deadly force, if the officer believes the subject is trying to escape by means of a deadly weapon, or if they believe the subject is an imminent threat of death or serious injuries to others unless immediately apprehended.

“We’re saying the sanctity of life is paramount,” Chief Putney said.

The policy also details seven circumstances where the use of force is not warranted. You can find the full Use of Force policy here. 

After the death of Keith Scott in 2016, Chief Putney also has plans to build a de-escalation facility to help train officers further. 

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