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With Videos Released, Putney Takes A Long View On CMPD

kerr putney
Charlotte Observer

Two weeks after the police shooting of Keith Scott, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police are trying to step back from the case and take a longer view of how they do their jobs. Police Chief Kerr Putney talked about the case on Wednesday, and how to move forward as a police department.

CMPD has invited The Police Foundation of Washington, DC, to review its policies and procedures, and how it handled the confrontation with Keith Scott.

That includes CMPD’s policy and training on de-escalation. Critics have asked why officers didn't try harder to de-escalate the confrontation and note that his wife yelled at them that he had a TBI – a traumatic brain injury.  Putney hopes The Police Foundation review will help.  

“De-escalation runs throughout all of our training, all of our educational process for new employees and current officers. I think the nuances (are) what we want the foundation to focus on and give us some feedback on that maybe your policy, your broader policy might miss,” Putney said.

The police research group will conduct interviews, and deliver a final report in a few months. CMPD will release that to the public.

Putney said CMPD is committed to other steps, like issuing body cameras to all tactical officers, as well as those on patrol or working off-duty assignments.  He has been reluctant to have tactical officers wear cameras, since he says it could reveal locations and tactics.

The department also plans to “solidify” a policy on making police videos public. Putney says they need to figure out how to do that while also complying with a new state law that requires a court order for videos to be released.

All the videos of the shooting scene are now public. The department released the remaining footage on Tuesday, but questions remain. For example, the videos don't show a gun, though one was recovered at the scene.  So where was it?  

“That is the whole point of the investigative process. The district attorney will talk about all those facts and all those factors. And that decision will be made - it's gonna be in his hands - hopefully in the next couple weeks,” he said.

We also asked Putney about the death of protester Justin Carr outside the Omni Hotel uptown the night after Scott's shooting. Police have arrested a suspect. But conspiracy theories have persisted, that police are to blame.

Putney said police do have a private video of the incident, but they're not releasing it because they’re still investigating.

“I wish we could release more information, but because it's a current investigation and a suspect is involved, we really are prohibited from doing that because it'd adversely affect the judicial process. But I'm not into conspiracies, I'm into facts, and that's what we did a fact-finding and obviously the facts led us to a suspect that was arrested,” the chief said.

There’s still the question of whether any charges will be filed in Scott’s killing. After the shooting, Putney was quick to say he wasn’t pressing charges. On Wednesday, he stuck to that.

PUTNEY: What we do is we look at probable cause. And ... that is step one, that is within my purview.  But also, the district attorney now has all the facts and he really will determine whether or not this case goes to trial or a decision is made not to charge as well. So, I didn't see, based on all the facts that I had, that it rose to the level of probable cause at that point, but ultimately it's going to be the district attorney who has that final decision.


Q: How would you rate your handling of this case so far? It's gotten a lot of attention, you're in the spotlight every day now. What kind of grade would you give yourself and what would you have done differently?

PUTNEY:  I'm not the teacher. I'm gonna let the foundation decide. Right now, I'm in the business of healing. I'm in the business of taking some short-term steps that we can to reassure the public that we hear them and we're gonna do work ... and then intermediate and long term solutions. All of that should play out ... that critique is not mine to make. So I'm open to the foundation giving us that feedback and adjusting course accordingly.

In recent years, CMPD has worked to strengthen community ties, but Putney knows there’s still a lot of work to do.