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Speakers Call For Changes In Consultant's Report And CMPD

Consultants reviewing CMPD's response to last year's protests in uptown Charlotte heard from speakers calling for changes in their draft report, and also how CMPD holds officers responsible. 

The draft report by The Police Foundation in October said Charlotte Mecklenburg police "acted appropriately" as they responded to protests in September 2016, after the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott. The report offered recommendations in areas such as crowd control, de-escalation training, and transparency.

Activist Robert Dawkins of Safe Coalition NC was the first of several speakers to say residents want more than transparency when it comes to violent encounters involving police.

"Transparency's not our issue here. Accountability is our issue here. But the police officers want to be transparent - if you do this, we will not hurt you. Well, when you do hurt us, what happens to you? And it's never anything. That's my question to you," Dawkins said, as the audience applauded.

To Dawkins, that means disciplinary action or criminal charges.

About 50 people attended the forum at Little Rock AME Zion Church in uptown Charlotte. Kristin Williams said police body cams were supposed to increase accountability - but that hasn't happened. 

"There's video evidence, and nothing's still happening. So that make us feel like if they don't get convicted with video, nothing's ever going to happen. And that's very frustrating,' Williams said.

A speaker addresses panelists from The Police Foundation during Monday's forum at Little Rock AME Zion Church.
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
A speaker addresses panelists from The Police Foundation during Monday's forum at Little Rock AME Zion Church.

Like Williams, many other speakers wanted to talk about police shootings, such as the killing of Keith Lamont Scott that sparked last year's protests. But that topic won't be in the final report. The city's $380,000 contract with the foundation calls only for a review of the protests and police community relations. 

Former City Council member Beth Pickering listed the names of several black and Latino residents killed by CMPD officers over the past couple of years. She thinks officers act too quickly in tense situations.

“So my question is, what can we put into this report  to address the fact that we feel officers need to wait just a few more minutes?” she asked.

Another speaker noted that many African Americans are afraid of the police and some police are afraid of them. Gemini Boyd, a convicted felon turned activist, questioned whether anything would come of the review and challenged the consultants to write a report that reflects what they're hearing about fears on both sides.

Frank Straub, a retired police chief leading the Charlotte review, said the draft report failed to give enough voice to the community.

"And I think we have learned through this process that there is a lot of pain. There is a lot of suffering. There is a lot of concern. And it is our obligation in the report to convey that as best as possible," Straub said.

Straub said a final report likely won't be finished until January.