Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said he will wait until after the 2020 Republican National Convention to disclose what CMPD buys with a $50 million federal security grant.
When the city hosted the Democratic National Convention in 2012, CMPD bought millions of dollars of equipment, including new avionics for police helicopters, riot gear and hundreds of new surveillance cameras that are still used today.
About half of the $50 million grant from six years ago was used to pay police officers' salaries and overtime.
CMPD revealed what it bought – but only after the convention. The department plans the same approach for the 2020 convention.
“Prematurely disclosing the plans for the use of the grant funds would adversely impact the integrity of the safety plan,” Putney wrote in an Aug. 20 memo to City Manager Marcus Jones.
As part of its contract to host the RNC, Jones and Putney have the ability to spend the $50 million security grant without council approval.
Robert Dawkin of the SAFE Coalition, which lobbies for more transparency in police departments statewide, says City Council should have more oversight.
In an e-mail to city leaders, Dawkins wrote that Putney’s memo shows “that this council does not have the political will to hold the department to any kind of standard and believes that transparency and accountability should be left to police itself."
Dawkins noted that the Police Foundation, hired by the city after the Keith Scott shooting in 2016, had said that the city needs more transparency.
Dawkins also said he is concerned about a proposal from Jones to raise the minimum dollar amount for city purchases that requires council approval.
Today, all city expenditures greater than $100,000 must be voted on by council members. The manager’s proposal is to raise that threshold to $500,000. That would apply to all city expenditures moving forward, including those made by CMPD.
Republican council member Ed Driggs is fine with CMPD waiting until after the convention to reveal how it spends the $50 million.
"CMPD is charged with keeping our community safe – they can’t be held accountable for our safety if we tie their hands when it comes to the equipment they need," Driggs writes in an email response to Dawkins. "It is also unreasonable to expect them to make things easy for potential troublemakers by communicating details of their plans and capabilities to the whole world...and that we will not let them down by embracing the suspicion and negativity that is embodied in the SAFE Coalition's demands."
Democratic council member LaWana Mayfield wrote that council members should have more oversight.
“I hope we can agree that putting ourselves in the ‘I didn’t know’ category regarding equipment purchase and use is not good for either the Community or Council,” she wrote.
In July, council members voted 6-5 to host the RNC. Mayfield was one of the council members who voted against hosting the convention.