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At-Large Democratic Candidates Talk Police Training, Bias, RNC

At-large Democratic candidates for City Council participate in a "Charlotte Talks" forum Aug. 28.

Police de-escalation training was a major topic Wednesday night among seven Democrats running in Charlotte's City Council at-large primary race. The event was hosted by WFAE’s "Charlotte Talks" at McGlohon Theater. Candidates were in agreement that there is no excuse for officers not to be wearing body cameras.

Council member James Mitchell said it’s the council’s responsibility to set policy that ensures police are following proper protocol.

“One new policy we need to make sure we pass ... if an officer does not have his body-worn camera on they should be penalized," Mitchell said. "I think it’s about transparency, so the community believes that was a proper arrest.”

One police officer was not wearing his body camera when Danquirs Franklin was shot by another officer outside a Burger King in March.

Council member LaWana Mayfield said the city also isn't doing enough to make sure police are de-escalating situations before they turn deadly.

“You have a young black male who was squatted down between a vehicle with the door open," Mayfield said. "Unless he had the ability to do a 40-foot vertical jump he was not going anywhere, so from the very beginning of that video that officer came in escalated.”

Mayfield said there is a clear disconnect with how officers engage with African Americans and Latinos versus white males. She said city leaders need to figure out how to address bias when interacting with communities of color.

Another hot-button issue was the controversial Republican National Convention.

Mitchell said he voted for the convention to come to Charlotte in 2020 because it would generate $100 million for the local economy and other business opportunities.

“We had a hit-list of probably top 12 CEOs ... guess what party they were affiliated with? They were Republican CEOs," Mitchell said. "And so I saw this as a great opportunity to show what Charlotte was really about.

"We embrace diversity. I’m proud to say I voted for it, but I’m more proud to say I’m going to protect our image when the RNC comes to Charlotte.” 

Jorge Millares, candidate and executive director of Queen City Unity, said the city has to think long term and not short-lived economic boosts. 

“The energy that it brings here to Charlotte is extremely dangerous," Millares said. "You can get a $100 million boost, but what happens if there is mass civil unrest on a grand scale here, or on a worldwide scale? Charlotte will forever be remembered as a center of bigotry, hatred and the place that welcomed it. 

"And the businesses that will leave and the negative impact on tourism are unquantifiable but it will happen.” 

Charlotte City Council voted last year 6-5 in favor of the city’s bid for the RNC . In July the council passed a resolution condemning President Trump, saying he used racist and xenophobic language during a rally in Greenville where the crowd chanted “send her back" in reference to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

Millares, Mayfield, Mitchell, Dimple Ajmera, Julie Eiselt, Braxton Winston and Chad Stachowicz are the seven candidates running for four at-large seats. Ajmera, Eiselt, Mayfield, Mitchell and Winston are all incumbent members of City Council. 

The primary is Sept. 10.

You can listen to the entire candidate forum here.