The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department will be granted funds to purchase new equipment for its SWAT team, including night vision goggles and a projectile launcher that can fire rubber balls and, in some cases, tear gas.
Fifty pairs of the night goggles will be purchased at a total cost of $545,900, or roughly $10,900 a pair. The projectile launcher will be purchased for $53,000 and will replace an older model currently used by the department.
City Council members voted to approve the purchases 9-2 at their meeting Monday night. Democrats Braxton Winston and Lawana Mayfield voted against.
"I have been at the receiving end of these 40-millimeter rounds," Winston said, referring to the launcher, "and I can tell you that they are painful, that they are used against peaceful, nonviolent protesters, and it is not something that I think we need to expand."
Before he was elected to the council, Winston had been involved in protests surrounding the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in September 2016. During those protests, police fired multiple rounds of tear gas at protesters.
Other council members voted to support the purchase, including Democrat Larken Egleston, who said it was important to provide non-lethal options to police officers.
"If we take non-lethal options away from our law enforcement officers ... unfortunately, that might lead to them turning to lethal options," Egleston said.
Additionally, council members approved a contract with an app developer, MobilePD, to develop a customized CMPD mobile app that will allow residents to receive crime alerts, submit crime tips, live chat with officers, and file and obtain police reports, among other features.
Funding for the app's development will come from a $147,000 grant by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Foundation. The city will pay $20,000 annually for app maintenance and support.