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CMPD Chief, Sheriff Discuss Racism, Protests And Police Policies On Charlotte Talks

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Charlotte Talks
CMPD Chief Kerr Putney, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden and WFAE's Mike Collins talk on Charlotte Talks on Tuesday.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney were on WFAE’s Charlotte Talks on Tuesday to discuss systemic racism, police policies and challenges for their departments and themselves.

McFadden says that as an African American sheriff, he is placed in a difficult position trying to be in both law enforcement and someone who calls out racism in his community. Here’s an excerpt of his conversation with host Mike Collins.

"I think you have bad apples, but then you have systemic racism also. But we have to tackle that as officials in law enforcement," McFadden said. "My job -- sheriff job, chief job -- it is up to us to take care of those matters, but we do need the support by the community.

"But there are a lot of bad apples, and yes there’s systemic racism in law enforcement. The sheriff can say that, but then here’s the problem, I’m an African American sheriff that has to fight with his African American community to, as we call, save face. They don’t like me, they call me a traitor because I’m just simply in law enforcement.

"Then you go to the other side, and they say, 'Why are you trying to save your people?' So believe it or not, we are caught in the middle. We’re trying to get both sides to hear us, but neither one is listening clearly to us."

Putney said the department sees "areas for improvement," bringing up the night of June 2, when officers fired tear gas at protesters who didn't have a clear way to escape in a moment streamed live on Facebook by Queen City Nerve.

The department changed its policies slightly after public outcry over the incident, including requiring officers to provide clear directions on how to find an exit when telling crowds to disperse. Putney said internal and state investigations into June 2 are ongoing but that more information may come out next week.

Putney said some people in the department are saddened that a focus on bad behavior by police takes away from positive work that officers do, though it creates "an opportunity to talk about responsible reform."  

"Morale here is not as bad as I've seen it in the past because we're allowing for the opportunity to get better, our people are," Putney said. "But as far as the feeling that we're on an island, yes, that hurts morale — the feeling that we're not getting support because the vast majority of our people continue to do very good work and that work is overlooked."

Putney said his department is working on some recommendations for reform. 

Listen to the full conversation on today's Charlotte Talks.