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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.

Anti-Profiling Measure Does Not Take Shape At Charlotte Council Meeting

After the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, both unarmed black men killed by police officers, Charlotte lawmakers are once again re-evaluating how police interact with the minority communities they serve. The city council met Monday evening to consider a possible anti-racial profiling law, but what it would actually do is undecided.

The meeting was partially in response to Jonathan Ferrell’s death—Charlotte’s own high-profile killing of an unarmed black man last year. Twenty-four-year-old Ferrell was shot ten times by a white CMPD officer, while seeking help after a car crash. That officer is now charged with manslaughter.

The city council is considering a new law to address profiling, with the goal of reducing long-simmering tension over police targeting of minorities, especially black men. But there was no agreement on what it would contain, whether it should be a law or non-binding resolution, or even what the meeting should have been about.

“My interpretation of being here was we were supposed to be seriously drill down,” said state Representative Rodney Moore, who has led the push for the law. “What I saw was a good presentation by the police chief.”

Moore wants a city ordinance that will put checks on police surveillance and limit racial profiling. He plans to introduce a statewide version of the legislation next session. Charlotte’s would serve as a model.

But while Moore’s proposal catalyzed the meeting, council members never actually discussed it. A presentation by CMPD police chief Rodney Monroe comprised nearly the entire two hours. Monroe explained that CMPD policies already cover what Moore wants in a law.

“Stop data, use of force, pursuits, complaints, raids, search packages, and voluntary consents are reviewed on a regular basis,” Chief Monroe said, as an example. “We have assessors that come from all over the country.”

Monroe also announced the department has two upcoming changes: It will start tracking complaints of racial profiling—it currently doesn’t—and present a proposal to the city council to equip all officers with body cameras in January.

Many of the about 100 sitting in at the meeting, mostly black men and women, didn’t feel that is enough to prevent discrimination.

“It happens on a daily basis. It happens to a lot of black and brown people in this county, a lot of poor people,” says Eddie Thomas, a criminal defense attorney who attended the meeting after hearing about it on TV. “And so we’re not talking about what they’re not allowed to do.  We’re talking about the fact that it happens, and what is Mecklenburg County going to do, what is CMPD going to do, when officers get out of line?”

But the feeling was not universal among those attending.

“Yes the police, there are some young officers that need diversity training, and do need to handle some situations, but I just feel like we’re making strides,” says Evelyn Mills.

City staff will have about a month to figure out what the new law will entail, and whose proposal it will follow. They’ll present a draft to the city council in January.