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Council's Justin Harlow: City Must Look At CMPD's Use Of Force Policy


It’s been five days since the public got a glimpse into the last moments of Danquirs Franklin’s life – the repeated commands by CMPD Officer Wende Kerl to drop his gun, the motion of Franklin’s hand as he appeared to hold it with the barrel facing himself, and the fatal shots from Kerl’s gun.

Those two minutes have prompted a lot of anger, reflection and calls for change, but the video that the council was shown was 11 minutes long.  After saying the additional footage would hamper the investigation, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney is now petitioning a court to release it.

City Council Member Justin Harlow represents the part of west Charlotte where the shooting happened. He heads the council committee that oversees policing. 

Harlow spoke with WFAE's Lisa Worf.


Lisa Worf:  Good morning, Mr. Harlow.

Justin Harlow: Hey, good morning. Thanks for having me.

Lisa Worf: So you've had some time to digest this footage now and discuss it with constituents, with people in leadership positions. What concerns rise to the surface for you at this point?

Justin Harlow: You know the community of course is hurting this is tough to watch. I've got two young black boys that I'm trying to raise in this city. And as young as they are they will eventually, hopefully, God willing, be teenagers and adults. So this is something I have to think about.

Justin Harlow: The community is having conversations with us. The police chief is trying to have conversations back with the community. But you know there was a loss of life here. There was the loss of life. Someone lost a son. Someone lost a father. And so you know this is challenging and these things we continue to see all over the country. This conversation around what's a perceived threat what's not, but you know I'm committed as as a Neighborhood Development chair to work with CMPD and work with the community on drafting policies to where we can try to prevent things like this from happening.

Lisa Worf: What kind of policies come to mind at this point?

Justin Harlow: I mean we really have to look at our use-of-force policy and really get down into the nitty gritty of you know how do we help shape policies where the legal standard maybe isn't so low for this to be acceptable. You know I use the police chief's terms he used it a lot lately over the past week: This is possibly lawful but awful. It certainly is awful - no doubt. Again we should be trying to preserve life at any instance, and I hope that all of our police officers try to do that in any instance even when there are deadly weapons involved. But this idea of you know use of deadly force. Are we shooting to kill or are we not? Are we trying to deescalate? Are we trying to indicate or inform perspective suspects of different types of command? You know can we say, "Show me your palms, put your hands up" rather than put the gun down even if we don't necessarily see a gun? That way when people are trying to comply, there isn't the same idea of what might be a perceived threat. You know kind of getting down into that a little bit, I think, is something that the council will certainly take up down the road here.

Lisa Worf: CMPD says 47 percent of patrol officers have gone through crisis intervention training. Are those numbers a surprise to you?

Justin Harlow: It is not a surprise. It takes a lot to assume these officers through these training, which takes them actually out of the way of patrolling and investigating real crimes. But there is certainly value to that as well. What we do know is that you know Officer Kerle was not had not gone into the CIT's training. So as we analyze it and look at possibly changing some of the policies, we may even look at saying, you know, even though it's time intensive, maybe all of our officers need to be CIT certified.

Lisa Worf: Will council make it a priority to fund the training, or is it a matter of CMPD making it a priority?

Justin Harlow: I think it's both. I think I think we have to walk hand in hand with this. It is certainly a priority for our community to make sure that there's as much training as possible for the officers that police and protect all of us. I think we'll both have those conversations on the council side and internally in the department on CMPD, side but I'm willing to work together with the chief and his deputy chiefs in looking at - and maybe we have to bring in consultants - but whatever that dollar amount is we can't keep losing lives.

Lisa Worf: Do you think this shooting would have been more likely to have been avoided with that type of crisis intervention training or some of the policy changes you were talking about, "Put your hands up."

Justin Harlow: No doubt. I think the video is pretty clear. Yes, there is a weapon. There's debate around was he trying to comply or not. We've seen slow-mo video of Mr. Franklin having the barrel in his hand and trying to possibly drop it. I believe that if you're saying, "Hey, let me see your hands; let me to your palms," then maybe he just shows his hands and his palms even if it's a delayed response because he was not responding directly to the initial commands in the first place. But to say "put the gun down" if he doesn't have a gun in his hand, he didn't have to reach for it to put it down. And so that's where you know incidents like this turn fatal.

Lisa Worf: What did you see in the full 11 minutes of the footage?

Justin Harlow: So through the incident of the shooting and following there's much more footage that's there. For me, there's not a whole lot more. There is a lot of discussion, a lot of talking. But as it relates to you know the incident in question and everything having to do with whether you know the officer is justified or not, I feel like the community can really capture it in those two and a half minutes.

Lisa Worf: And some of that extra footage, we've heard from other council members say, it deals with emergency response. How did you see that?

Justin Harlow: For me, you know I definitely think our first priority should be about preserving life. We should be trying to activate quick basic life support type of things immediately following any type of incident like this. I did not see that. I believe that medics were called. We know that. We hear that. But you know could other things have been done? Simple things like putting pressure on the wound, applying other basic life support techniques certainly could have been done.

Lisa Worf: You did not see that happen?

Justin Harlow: No.

Lisa Worf: Police Chief Kerr Putney has said he didn't want to release additional video because he thought it would interfere with the investigation. Do you think there's anything on the video that would do that?

Justin Harlow: You know I'm not an investigator, but I do believe that in active investigations, you have to maintain the integrity of that. We can't air the whole investigation in the court of public opinion. So I understand the idea around trying to make sure that what is requested was how CMPD and the city responded as did what was requested and petition to the court is actually what was released, but nothing after the initial shooting in the first two and a half minutes changes my mind about anything that went on in the incident.

Lisa Worf: How did council members, in the mayor's words, inadvertently see all of Officer Kerl's body-cam video?

Justin Harlow: Well I think on our end – how it got to be inadvertent — I can't comment on, but I believe that on our end, we thought we were seeing what the judge eventually or what the judge did see. And you know I guess the particulars of the request were responded to by CMPD but we were just shown... we were shown the whole video.

Lisa Worf: And who showed it to you?

Justin Harlow: CMPD and the city attorney's office.

Lisa Worf: That City Council member Justin Harlow, who oversees policing on the City Council's Neighborhood Development Committee. Dr. Harlow, thank you.

Justin Harlow: Thank you.

Lisa Worf: This is WFAE's Morning Edition.

Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.