CMPD Agrees To Study Citizens Review Board Recommendations

Sep 15, 2017

Story updated 6:30 p.m.

Last month the Charlotte Citizens Review Board issued a split decision on whether CMPT Officer Brentley Vinson should have been disciplined for the fatal shooting of Keith Scott. But the board unanimously approved policy recommendations for the department. CMPD Chief Kerr Putney revealed some of the board’s suggestions and responded to them today. WFAE’s Gwendolyn Glenn was at the press conference and joins Nick de la Canal in the studio.

ND: Gwendolyn, what were some of the board’s recommendations to CMPD that the Chief talked about today?

GG: They only focused on a few. Some were personnel-related and not released. Most discussed involved training and officers’ use of force. One recommendation that was a big issue in the Keith Scott fatal shooting involves how police officers respond in approaching and securing a stationary vehicle to keep the driver from leaving the scene of a suspected crime. Scott was sitting in his vehicle in a parking lot when he was approached by police. They said he had a gun in his hand when he got out of his vehicle. CRB members urged department officials to develop more training for officers in dealing with an armed, non compliant suspect, and to also develop quote “clear guidance around when breaching a vehicle’s window is and is not appropriate.

ND: What was the chief’s response? 

GG: Chief Putney said CMPD is reviewing its current practices regarding breaching vehicle windows where a person doesn’t follow officers’ orders and will determine if additional guidelines are needed in securing stationary vehicles. He also said this:

PUTNEY: The longer an armed person is noncompliant the more dangerous that encounter can be.. And also keep in mind, an officer never really knows what a person is thinking, so when they see a noncompliant subject a lot of times they may believe that noncompliance that noncompliance may lead to a potential assault on them or members of the public.

ND: I understand the board also had recommendations regarding de-escalation training for officers in cases like Keith Scott’s.

GG: The Chief said CRB had concerns about that in terms of the scenarios they use in training officers on how to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations. Chief Putney says all of his sworn officers have gone through this type of training and as CRB members suggested, they will assess the effectiveness of it. The board also wants him to make sure his officers have all available non-lethal options available when approaching a vehicle and here’s what Putney had to say:

PUTNEY: That is another good recommendation that we are looking forward to implementing because if applied appropriately, we think now the officers have a litany of options. But I’ll tell you in an armed encounter, make no mistake, where a subject is noncompliant until we can resolve the immediate threat that that gun poses, all de-escalation tactics become irrelevant.

GG-Nick, that comment raised a lot of questions during the press conference, Robert Dawkins of Safe Coalition NC was there and says he has some concerns.

DAWKINS:  I don’t disagree with he’s saying but I still think there so much subjectivity based in this if you have a gun in your hand after warning you a couple of times can shoot you. I think you have to raise a gun or in the process of raising a weapon before you can use force

ND:  Did the chief talk about any other CRB recommendations?

GG: Yes the board is concerned that the department’s policy relies on the assumption that a suspect with a gun at his or her side can get a shot off faster than the officer can react. An excerpt from the report says if this will be the continued belief and practice of CMPD, that assertion needs to be scientifically validated. Here’s Putney’s response.

PUTNEY: We’ve done a lot of unscientific experiments that gives us some confidence that that is indeed valid but  based on what we are getting get from CRB, and it is very good recommendation, we need to validate that scientifically so we’ll seek to have an independent party with expertise in this area to validate whether or not  or not our reaction time can match the action time of an armed encounter of a subject who draws a weapon and maybe fires a shot.

ND: Gwen, any mention by the chief of the upcoming anniversary of Keith Scott’s fatal shooting and how they are preparing for it?

GG: The chief says he anticipates that emotions will be high that day and he expects to see quote, legal protests, but says rioting and violence will not be tolerated.

Updated 2:20 p.m.
CMPD says it will review several aspects of police procedures based on recommendations by the Charlotte Citizens Review Board. They include improving the use of de-escalation tactics, reviewing its policy on allowing deadly force, and reevaluating the way it stops and breaks the windows of suspects' vehicles.

A CMPD officer (left) points a gun toward Keith Scott just before the Charlotte man was shot to death in September 2016.
Credit CMPD

On Friday, CMPD released a portion of the previously unpublished recommendations that the board offered in August, after it reviewed the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott. CMPD did not release other recommendations related specifically to personnel, saying it would be illegal to do so.

43-year-old Scott was shot to death by CMPD officer Brentley Vinson on Sept. 20, 2016. The shooting happened as police confronted him in the parking lot of a northeast Charlotte apartment complex.    

The Citizens Review Board heard several days of testimony about the shooting last month, but could not reach an agreement. They ended up deadlocked 4 to 4, with some members absent, on whether to challenge CMPD Chief Kerr Putney's decision to clear the officer of wrongdoing.

In a statement, CMPD said it would review the specific policies mentioned by the board.

"The CMPD constantly reviews its policies to identify necessary changes, amendments or improvements that will allow our officers to serve our community more effectively.  The (CRB’s) recommendations offer the CMPD another opportunity to further that pursuit," CMPD said. 

In Friday's statement, CMPD listed three policy questions raised by the Citizens Review Board, along with its responses.  They are:

  • Vehicle takedowns - Police sometimes try to block suspects' vehicles as they leave an incident scene. CMPD said the tactic "relies on the element of surprise" and sometimes includes breaking a window to unlock a door so officers can subdue a suspect. CMPD agreed to review those tactics, but said they are often "essential to effective policing."
  • De-escalation - The Citizens Review Board recommended that CMPD revise its policies and training in the use of de-escalation techniques, to avoid the use of deadly force. The board cited written de-escalation policies at other police departments, such as those in Los Angeles and Seattle. CMPD agreed to study those policies and review its own "with an eye towards providing additional guidance that assists officers in making critical decisions related to the use of force."  CMPD also said its current use-of-force directives are effective as basic principles, but "no directive can capture every possible scenario."
  • Reaction time/use of force - CMPD has cited short reaction times as the reason why officers sometimes shoot when they feel an "imminent threat." The Citizen Review Board also said CMPD should "scientifically validate" whether that's an acceptable practice.  CMPD said it has conducted internal tests, but agreed to work with "an independent third party with scientific expertise" on a new study to confirm whether a suspect can fire a shot before an officer has time to react.

Police chief Kerr Putney was scheduled to discuss the recommendations in a 2 p.m. press conference.

Check back here and listen to WFAE for updates on this developing story. 

RELATED LINKS 

Sept. 15, 2017, CMPD statement on the Citizens Review Board recommendations