“I’m tired of having meetings like this,” Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney told a large crowd of activists, local leaders and residents inside Friendship Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday night. “There’s a lot of mistrust in this profession. The truth of the matter is that we’ve earned a lot of that.”
Days following the fatal police-involved shooting of 27-year-old Danquirs Franklin at a nearby Burger King, Putney faced members of the community, who seemed to grow more frustrated and agitated throughout the evening.
Putney acknowledged the difference between legal standard versus citizen expectations. CMPD attorney Mark Newbold shared examples of Supreme Court cases that established the legal standards to justify deadly force. Putney said the department has spent the last few years training officers to meet the higher expectations of residents.
After opening remarks, as expected, the chief was mostly a punching bag for the Q&A portion of the evening.
At the meeting’s onset, it was made clear to residents that Franklin’s case could not be discussed, as the investigation is ongoing. One by one, people voiced questions and comments.
“We’re here because we’re angry about what you’re doing to our community. You showed us that you don’t care about us!” screamed one resident who continued to yell out a litany of recent police-involved shooting victims.“ There were cheers, claps and snaps of approval.
Another resident, who moved from Baltimore to get away from the violence, questioned why there isn’t more police on foot patrol in the community getting to know residents. CPMD, in fact, does have officers who walk the streets, but the crowd seemed to want more.
Midway through the Q&A session, a group entered the church and stood by the wall to the right of Putney. They had occasional outbursts and, at one point, the usually composed police chief lost his cool.
While answering a question from the audience, someone from the group yelled, “We don’t care!” Putney responded, “Then leave.” Some in the crowd applauded the chief’s clapback.
It became so intense that Friendship’s pastor, Rev. Clifford Jones, addressed the disturbance.
“We are here because Chief Putney wanted to have this conversation,” Jones said. As the two sides continued, he stated, “I have been in this community for 30 years. I didn’t just show up because the media is here.”
The group left the sanctuary once they made their comments.
Not all residents were out for blood. One audience member praised the work that Putney has been doing, specifically within the Latino community. She acknowledged her broken English before sharing that seeing more cops who look like her, and who speak Spanish, was building trust. She said that she felt safer in Charlotte since Putney took over.
“This event was needed,” Putney said. “Not everyone came here to be satisfied. Some people came just so they can say something and leave – and that’s ok too.”
As with many of these events, there weren’t any next steps or actionable items. However, there were a number of local groups in attendance who spoke about the role members of the community must come to help change outcomes.
“I have a lot of people willing to do some work. If we want to change outcomes. It starts from when kids are young. We have some people here who are willing to do that work..I’m ready to do that work with them,” the chief said.
Kallan Louis is a writer and consultant for qcitymetro.com. He does a lot, but never feels like he’s doing enough. His life can be described as a Venn Diagram: News media, Black culture and sports. He’s always on TV, but rarely seen.