A group of African American men in Charlotte is calling on state lawmakers to pass a series of measures aimed at creating transparency and oversight when police injure civilians or use deadly force.
Among their demands: repeal of N.C. House Bill 972, which, starting Oct. 1, will deny the public access to police video without a court order. The group also called for independent investigations when police use force that result in the death or injury of a civilian.
The group, 11 business, faith and community leaders, released the proposal on Saturday following a week in which Charlotte saw violent protests over the police killing of Keith Scott, a black man who died under what some residents insist were questionable circumstances.
“The taking of any human life is tragic,” the group said in the announcement. “Whether the taking of a black life is the result of neighborhood crime or law enforcement actions, sadly, in America today, the value of a black life continues to be diminished in the eyes of far too many. This must end!”
Closer to home, the group called on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to enact its own reforms, and it called for a city-wide referendum to change the city’s charter to remove the city manager as the city’s chief executive and to give those powers to the mayor and city council. The group said such a move would make elected officials more accountable to voters.
Read the release in its entirety:
We, the undersigned, express our sincerest prayers and condolences to the family of Keith Scott. The taking of any human life is tragic. Whether the taking of a black life is the result of neighborhood crime or law enforcement actions, sadly, in America today, the value of a black life continues to be diminished in the eyes of far too many. This must end!
As a group of African-American men who are longtime Charlotte residents, we stand in steadfast unity with a renewed commitment to undertake measures designed to reverse this appalling trend. We acknowledge that far too many black lives are lost at the hands of our own and we will continue our collective efforts to deter the next act of absurd violence. However, only through the restoration of lost trust and confidence in policing and the criminal justice system will our community begin to heal and work in a more meaningful and collaborative manner with law enforcement to end the cycle of senseless and avoidable killings of black Americans.
To that end we are calling upon political and governmental leadership to take the following actions:
1. Immediately release all body-worn and dashboard camera recordings made by the CMPD related to the death of Keith Scott.
2. Immediately repeal, in its entirety, N.C. House Bill 972 which provides recordings made by law enforcement agencies are not public records and thereby not subject to public disclosure without a court order.
3. Enact legislation that provides that all body-worn, custodial and dashboard camera recordings made by law enforcement agencies related to law enforcement use of deadly force are public records and shall be disclosed publicly within three business days from the date of the use of deadly force.
4. Enact legislation mandating that instances of police use of force resulting in death, officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death, or in-custody inmate death investigations, shall be conducted by external law enforcement agencies.
5. Enact legislation mandating the use of an external, independent prosecutor in cases of police use of force resulting in injury or death, officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death and in-custody deaths.
6. Enact legislation mandating all N.C. law enforcement agencies collect, maintain and annually report data, including demographic data of all parties involved, to the public and the Federal Government on all officer-involved discharging of firearms, whether fatal or nonfatal.
7. Enact legislation mandating all N.C. law enforcement agencies collect, maintain and analyze demographic data on all detentions including stops, frisks, searches, criminal summons and arrests.
8. Enact legislation mandating all N.C. law enforcement officers, prior to a search of a person or property, explain to the person that he/she has the right to refuse consent when there is no warrant or probable cause and require the officer desiring to search, to obtain written acknowledgement of the consent to search prior to the search of the person and/or his/her property.
9. Enact legislation mandating all N.C. law enforcement agencies develop and implement officer job performance evaluation measures that takes into consideration officer efforts to engage members of the community and strengthen community partnerships.
10. Enact legislation mandating all N.C. law enforcement agencies enact mandatory annual in-service Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), de-escalation training, and implicit bias and cultural responsiveness training.
Further we call upon local political and governmental leadership to immediately take the following actions:
11. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to implement all measures as set forth above not currently prohibited by state law.
12. In an effort to create more responsiveness and accountability to the electorate, the Charlotte City Council to place a referendum on the November 2017 ballot for voter consideration to modify the City of Charlotte Charter from a Council—Manager form of municipal government, to a Mayor-Council form of government, thereby combining mayoral and chief executive officer powers into one office.
We also call upon the N.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders in Charlotte and throughout the state to:
13. Publicly call upon political and governmental leadership to implement measures designed to: deter discriminatory policing practices; promote law enforcement accountability; foster transparency in law enforcement; and restore and strengthen public confidence in the criminal justice system for the benefit of the community and law enforcement.
14. Publicly call upon local and state political and governmental leadership to prioritize legislative focus on increasing economic empowerment and opportunity in underserved communities.
Finally, we acknowledge that many more complex factors exist that contribute to generational disparities in education, economic opportunity and healthcare, which require much more comprehensive measures than outlined here. However, with the implementation of systemic criminal justice reform, Charlotte and North Carolina can turn a tragedy into a national model for restoration of public confidence in criminal justice and improved economic mobility that will enhance public safety for all.
Attorney Harold Cogdell, Jr.
Senator Joel Ford
Dr. Patrick Graham
Mr. Herb Gray
Mr. Damian Johnson
Mr. Harry Jones
Rev. Dr. Sheldon Shipman
Mr. Charles Walker
Dr. Dwayne Anthony Walker
Mr. Eric Watson
Rev. Dr. Peter M. Wherry