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Two Charlotte Leaders React To Democratic Party Proposals On Police Reform

Julian Wright (left) and Kristie Puckett-Williams
North Carolina Bar Association/ ACLU North Carolina

Representatives of Carolinas-based organizations focused on police reform said some portions of the Democratic Party platform were necessary and relevant for Charlotte, while others may represent rhetoric more than action.

Extensive debate over criminal justice reform has coincided with more than two months of protests on police reform in various cities. In Charlotte this week, community members, activists, and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department responded to portions of the Democratic Party platform focused on criminal justice reform. 

Julian Wright, legal counsel to the Citizens Review Board; Kristie Puckett Williams, a Charlotte-based organizer with the American Civil Liberties Union; and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department discussed the platform.

The Citizens Review Board reviews appeals filed by citizens who believe they have been mistreated by the police department.

“I think the Citizens Review Board would be more in favor of these Democratic platforms such as de-escalation training, more limits on the use of force, more officer training and non-violent tactics, implicit bias, and peer intervention,” Wright said.

The Democratic platform on criminal justice reform includes accountability measures for police officers, more funding for guidance counselors to help guarantee student disciplinary practices, conflict resolution, de-escalation training, increased diversity among the ranks of police departments, implicit bias training, and peer intervention training.

“Issues like peer-intervention, de-escalation, implicit bias, those are things certainly that I think Charlotte has made progress on in its police department and is maybe doing better than some other areas around the country,” Wright said.

Kristie Puckett Williams, North Carolina manager for the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice, said that she had not read the Democratic Party platform on criminal justice reform.

“I have not read any of the party’s platforms,” Williams said. “What we see historically is that elected officials say all the good things, but they do something completely different. While it is good to have their words on paper so we can hold them accountable, I look at actions more than the words and I will be looking at what the Democratic Party is going to do to undo the harm that this country as a whole has caused to black and brown folks.”

Williams said there needed to be greater accountability and transparency within the criminal justice system. In Charlotte, Williams is focused on defunding the police and reallocating the money to invest in the community.

“We have to start embracing people because they are members of our community when we do things to enhance people’s humanity we also do things to enhance the community and I think that is something that I think the democratic party should be focusing on,” said Williams.

A statement this week from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department appears to agree with a portion of the party platform on community initiatives. “Community collaboration, one of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s core four strategic priorities, is a process of participation by people, groups, and organizations working together to achieve results,” the CMPD statement said. “Each member must be willing to plan and share vision, mission, power, resources, and most importantly, goals. Collaboration builds trust, ensures accountability, and defines success.”

In comparison, a section of the Democratic Party platform focused on police reform said, “Democrats will reinvigorate community policing approaches, so officers on the beat better serve the neighborhoods they work in, and make smart investments to incentivize departments to build effective partnerships with social workers and mental health and substance use counselors to help respond to public health challenges.”