Last Wednesday night, Charlotte Mecklenburg police set up a “saturation patrol” in east Charlotte. There had recently been a DWI-related traffic fatality at Central Avenue and Lansdale Drive. CMPD had 25 officers stopping cars for speeding, missing headlights and possibly drunk driving.
But earlier that day, federal immigration agents had conducted raids statewide and apprehended as many as dozen people in Charlotte.
During Monday's City Council meeting, some questioned whether CMPD should have called off its checkpoint in light of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement roundup. ICE said it detained roughly 200 people statewide, including some in Charlotte.
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Democratic council member Braxton Winston said the checkpoint might cause immigrants to believe CMPD was working with the federal government. That might make them less likely to trust local law enforcement, Winston said.
"It makes it hard for us to execute on these promises of bridging differences," he said. "It makes it next to impossible to continue to build trust between the most fragile communities that we’re trying to reach."
Democratic council member Larken Egleston agreed.
"While it is important that while we focus on those high-crash areas, that we say: You know what, this week, that might not be as important as maintaining the trust in our community, particularly our immigrant community," Egleston said. "And not allowing that narrative to be fed that we are somehow partnering with ICE."
CMPD Sergeant Jesse Wood said local police were not working with ICE.
“We’re put in a predicament here. We had a fatal crash that happened the week before," said Wood, referring to the accident on Central Avenue. "So, on the one hand, we are trying to ensure the roadways are safe, we know that alcohol is responsible for a good portion of the 74 fatalities that we worked last year. In this case, it appears there was other federal activity going on when we were trying to discharge our duties.”
In the past, CMPD chief Kerr Putney has said CMPD does not want to help enforce immigration law, saying that could hurt his officer's relationships with the immigrant community.
The questions came during a routine vote on whether to accept a $200,000 grant for a driving while impaired task force.
Republican council member Ed Driggs criticized his colleagues for suggesting that CMPD was working with ICE – or that Charlotte police should call off checkpoints around the time of immigration enforcement.
"This procedure of creating these high-intensity (checkpoints) is part of the general responsibility of keeping roads safe," Driggs said. "And I think the idea that there was some sort of collusion with anybody else is just disrespectful to our police department."
Earlier during Monday’s meeting, council members voted to allow non-citizens to serve on city boards and commissions. The previous requirement – which had been in place since 2009 – required people to registered voters to serve.