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CMPD Unveils New De-Escalation Policy After Community Feedback

Kerr Putney
Michael Falero
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WFAE
Kerr Putney speaks at a press conference announcing a new use-of-force policy.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have a new policy detailing how officers should de-escalate and avoid using force. The new policy includes a written definition of “de-escalation.” CMPD Chief Kerr Putney says that’s new, but the idea itself isn’t.

"A part of our training has always been we’re trying to get time, distance, and cover, so we can slow things down," Putney said. "It has been a part of how we do business. This is the first time, though, we’ve been challenged to articulate that. So it’s in writing and we have to stand by it, and the community can hold us accountable to it."

Putney said this doesn’t mean officers won’t defend themselves when it’s clear a suspect has a weapon.

"But the split-second decision that a reasonable officer has to make, this policy’s not gonna change that," he said. "That is the law, and that remains."

The difference, he says, is officers will do more to de-escalate before a suspect shows a weapon.

The change comes after criticisms from community groups that police involved in shooting deaths – including Keith Lamont Scott in 2016 and Danquirs Franklin earlier this year – should have done more to de-escalate the situation.

Robert Dawkins is with Safe Coalition NC, which was among the groups that CMPD consulted on the changes.

robert-dawkins.jpg
Credit Michael Falero / WFAE
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WFAE
Robert Dawkins

"We think the 'duty to intervene' was really major in the Danquirs Franklin shooting, because if people are getting confusing and conflicting commands, it leads to use-of-force accidents," Dawkins said. "I hear what the chief is saying about it couldn’t be defined as ‘duty to intervene,’ but it’s covered in the policy. So I really want to see if that’s in there."

Dawkins praised Putney and CMPD for their willingness to listen to the community and accept feedback on how the department could change its use-of-force policy.

"I’m generally positive, because again, even the chief admits, we won’t stop here," Dawkins said. "But what we do see is the community got more input on this. We’ve gotten this to look at. And he also followed it up to say he wants feedback. We’ll definitely be giving feedback."

Putney announced the department would now refer to its “use of force” policy as “response to resistance,” and would begin rolling out the policy immediately. He also admitted that it was not a finished product.

"I'll tell you this: This policy is a living, breathing document," Putney said. "This is not a one-shot deal. I wish I could tell you we got it perfect this time. I'm sure we did not. But I can tell you this — it's better than where we started."