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WFAE's coverage of the case of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Randall Kerrick charged with voluntary manslaughter in the death of Jonathan Ferrell. The court case ended in a mistrial.

Monroe Discusses Community Relations At Town Hall

Tasnim Shamma

Police departments and their relationships with their communities are under scrutiny in the aftermath of a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

In a forum on Tuesday, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe outlined a few of his plans to build relationships with communities.

In this audience, the fatal shooting of Jonathan Ferrell was fresh on people's minds.

It was a little over a year ago, that CMPD officer Randall Kerrick shot at 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell twelve times, hitting him ten times. Latavia McClain says that was excessive.

"Whether they pull out a Taser versus a gun or a mace versus a gun," McClain says. "Instead of just pulling out your gun, what are the other tools that you could use on your belt to not result in something fatal?"

Credit Tasnim Shamma
About 50 people attended the town hall meeting organized by Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes on police, poverty and education.

CMPD arrested Kerrick and charged him with voluntary manslaughter less than 24 hours after the incident. Monroe says it's important for CMPD to humble themselves and admit when officers make mistakes.

"We do things that we're not supposed to do sometimes," Monroe says. "And we have to be able to admit that. You have to see some of the scars. And we're going through a process now where we're taking that band-aid off and allowing people to see what some of those scars are, so that we can teach ourselves some of the best ways of interacting with our police officers."

Credit Tasnim Shamma
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes advocated for adding body cameras to police officer uniforms.

 For example, Monroe says this year, new police officers and all command staff were required to attend a training called "Dismantling Racism." The program focuses not only on blatant racism, but also different forms of racism like institutional racism within agencies.  

"It's not necessarily personal, but it's historic and it's hard," Monroe says. "I've watched several of my recruits go through and some break down in tears. Some get up and storm out. But I think it exposes our officers to what– if we're not careful – what a community can feel, believe and react."

Monroe says two other priorities include increasing cultural competency among police officers and making the police force more diverse. Seventy four percent of CMPD officers are white, 18 percent are black, 4 percent are Latino, 2 percent are Asian and 2 percent describe themselves as 'other'.  

Audience members said one way to improve community relations is for officers to be more active in the communities where they serve. Latavia McClain had her own ideas.

"Connect with some of the parents in the schools, connect with the jails," McClain says. "Connect with communities where you have high rates of violence. Come out. Leave out flyers. Make phone calls. Anything. Because there are a lot of citizens that really want to help and taking their streets back into a family type of environment." 

Credit Tasnim Shamma
The panelists included Steve Crump of WBTV, Patrick Graham, president of the Urban League of the Central Carolinas, CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe and Kelly Gwaltney with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.

Monroe says there are plans next year to create a police academy within a public high school with a large minority population to expose students to careers in law enforcement and build more positive relationships. But he adds that residents also have to be more engaged in the communities they live in to help police do their job better.

About 50 people attended the forum, which also included discussion of poverty and education. But most of the discussion focused on the police.