A week after Charlotte-Mecklenburg police released body-cam footage of the deadly officer-involved shooting of Rueben Galindo, the department on Wednesday kicked off a demonstration series for local media, inviting reporters to learn more about its use-of-force policies.
The demonstration, held at the Training Academy in southwest Charlotte, gave members of the media a chance to volunteer in hands-on exercises, playing the role of police officers attempting to arrest “non-compliant” suspects.
In one scenario, volunteers struggled to wrestle to a resisting suspect to the ground. In another, two volunteers tried unsuccessfully to gain control of a suspect who was lying face down with both hand pinned beneath him.
The purpose of the exercises was not only to demonstrate some of the real-life situations that officers face on the street but also to explain what procedures are permitted under CMPD policy.
Chief Kerr Putney said just 2 percent of CMPD encounters involve any use of force.
Lt. Sean Mitchell, who led the demonstrations, said use of force should rarely be an officer’s first response. The academy also teaches verbal de-escalation, emotion management and even some basic commands in Spanish.
Questions about CMPDs’ use-of-force policies surfaced last month as members of city’s Citizens’ Review Board, in a 7-1 vote, sided with a man who filed a complaint against a CMPD officer who put a gun to the man’s head and threatened to kill him. The ruling was the first in the board’s 20-year history that went against the department.
Mayor Jennifer Roberts, who attended the demonstration, said police video don’t always tell a complete story of what happens when officers confront suspects.
“It is an attempt to add more eyes, more perspectives, for that reality, but it is not a full story,” she said.
Roberts said citizens and officers must both be concerned with conflict resolution.
“I’m very concerned about the level of violence in our society…,” she said. “I urge every teacher, every educator, every principal, every parent, every officer, to have that training on how to confront differences through a non-violent way.”
Puttney said CMPD officers would be going into middle schools this year to stress the importance of “cooperating” with police, noting that he got pushback from some sector of the Charlotte community when he once said suspects should simply “comply” with arresting officers.
Putney said he wants feedback from residents.
He will no doubt get feedback today (10/12) when he hosts a community discussion with members of the city’s Latino community about the Galindo shooting. The department said Putney will answer questions and explain policies related to use of force and “participate in real, genuine conversations with community members.”
The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Camino Community Center at133 Stetson Drive. The public is invited.