Newly released video footage is reigniting tensions stemming from a June protest in uptown Charlotte.
On Wednesday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department released more than 50 video clips of body camera footage and surveillance captured from their vantage point on June 2 as protesters marched in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Live streams from that night — most popular was from Queen City Nerve — showed officers firing tear gas into a crowd of protesters on Fourth Street trapping them from exiting the cloud of smoke.
CMPD actions drew intense scrutiny and further demands for police reform, particularly the use of chemical agents.
The State Bureau of Investigation launched an independent review of the incident that concluded CMPD did follow policy and said protesters did have a way to exit Fourth Street. However, CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings said the department petitioned the court for permission to publicly release all video footage from that night.
In the most damning of CMPD’s footage is clip #34, where one officer is heard outlining the plan for two police squads to “step out and hammer their ass” at different locations and acknowledging that protesters would be “bottle-necked” on Fourth Street. Moments later, the officer says, “Hey, wave goodbye. They’re all about to get gassed,” as protesters pass by chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
The officer’s “inappropriate and insensitive comments” resulted in an internal investigation, according to Chief Jennings. In addition to a two-week suspension, the officer was relieved from a specialized assignment and the privilege to train and won’t be eligible for promotions for at least two years.
Jennings added that the department’s policies had undergone other changes. Changes include repeatedly communicating dispersal orders and exit routes loudly and clearly; requiring additional dispersal orders if a dispersed crowd reassembles at another location; not using riot control agents, police officers or physical obstructions to intentionally block designated exit routes; and not using riot control agents to intentionally chorale or contain crowds.
Now, all Civil Emergency Unit (CEU) officers are equipped with the mounts needed to wear body cameras and protective gear. They’re required to wear the body cameras and turn them on when encountering the public.