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New CMPD Policy Spells Out Duty To Intervene In Police Brutality

CMPD Chief Kerr Putney speaking at a town hall in June 2017.
Nick de la Canal
CMPD Chief Kerr Putney

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has revised its neglect of duty policy to spell out an obligation for officers to intervene if they see an act like the one in Minneapolis that led to George Floyd's death.

Chief Kerr Putney said Thursday afternoon that he initially thought existing policies made it clear that officers shouldn't tolerate excessive force. But he said after meeting with Robert Dawkins of the SAFE Coalition NC and others concerned with police conduct, he added a section that states: "Officers will take appropriate and immediate action in any situation in which they know or should have known their failure to act would result in an excessive response to resistance or any egregious behavior which shocks the conscience."

"I think it speaks to the essence of our value of human life, how we want to approach the protection thereof, and also the engagement of our community who helped us design this particular policy," Putney said in an online news conference Thursday evening.

But Dawkins said in a tweet Thursday that he's "not happy at all" with the policy, saying it "flies in the face of why we asked for it."

"This is a 'we did something' policy," Dawkins tweeted. "We have more faith in (Mecklenburg Sheriff Garry McFadden) on his version."

McFadden has also said he's drafting a similar policy for his deputies

Floyd was killed May 25 when one Minneapolis police officer used his knee to press Floyd's neck to the street for almost nine minutes while three others stood by. Derek Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and the other three with aiding and abetting.

Putney says the new policy "speaks specifically to such a gross miscarriage of justice."

Charlotte, like cities across the country, has seen days of peaceful mass protests and smaller actions involving looting, vandalism and violent confrontations with police. 

Putney said the outrage over Floyd's death provided "a point in time and a flashpoint to be better as an agency -- be better as a profession, really."

Protests continued Thursday night. Asked how long this might go on, Putney said, "I don't have a crystal ball. I can't tell you. All I can tell you is people want to be heard and we're going to allow for that as long as it takes."

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.