Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officials revealed Wednesday that a CMPD sergeant was suspended for two weeks without pay after making what the department has deemed “insensitive” comments during a protest on June 2. During the protest officers deployed tear gas, pepper balls and other chemical agents against largely peaceful demonstrators.
Newly released video footage shows officers protesters march by moments before the incident. An officer can be heard telling officers that the demonstrators were about to be “hammered” by police.
“Wave goodbye they're all about to be gassed,” an officer says.
Dozens of videos released Wednesday provide the most detailed look to date at an incident that sparked widespread condemnation of CMPD and calls for far-reaching reforms within the department.
Police department officials did not specify what the officer’s comments were and did not identify the officer, who is a supervisor and who was previously assigned to CMPD’s bicycle unit, which responds to large-scale events and protests in the city.
Now-retired Chief Kerr Putney previously described the use of “chemical munitions” on protesters as the safest form of crowd control.
On Wednesday, Chief Johnny Jennings reiterated that no other CMPD officers have been disciplined in connection to the incident, which has already led to a lawsuit, significant policy changes and a now-expired temporary restraining order against the department to restrict use of chemical agents on peaceful demonstrators. And the City Council voted earlier this summer to restrict funding for tear gas.
That bike unit sergeant was also barred from training officers and being promoted for the next two years, Jennings said during a news conference Wednesday morning.
The sergeant’s conversation, intended to stay private, was captured in an expansive string of footage from the fifth night of demonstrations in Charlotte, tied to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Jennings said the sergeant regrets his “unprofessional, insensitive and unacceptable comments,” though “significant” discipline was necessary.
“The degree of harm, I think, is great because the public has the certain expectation of us,” Jennings said. “We have high expectations of ourselves — and not just of ourselves, but of our supervisors.”
The police chief’s announcement came hours before the department released long-awaited videos — including body camera and surveillance footage — from the night protesters said they were trapped while marching along Fourth Street. Jennings was a deputy police chief at the time of the incident.
Jennings on Wednesday continued to defend CMPD’s use of chemical agents in June due to “riotous activity.”
Yet Jennings also outlined tactical changes for how police issue dispersal orders and wear body cameras, two contentious aspects from the June 2 incident that came under scrutiny in a state review.
June 2 was the fifth night of tense protests in Charlotte stemming from the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck during an arrest.
More than 50 different videos — accounting for more than 100 hours of recordings — were made publicly available by Wednesday afternoon. Charlotte City Council and Mayor Vi Lyles reviewed the body-worn camera footage during a closed-session meeting Tuesday, city spokesman Cory Burkarth said.
A spokesperson for Lyles did not respond to a request for an interview Wednesday.
In June, Lyles sharply criticized CMPD’s tactics, saying the “night was one of those times that none of can be proud of.”
“I hope everyone is aware that that’s not the kind of department we want to have for policing,” Lyles has told reporters. “It’s not the kind of reputation that we want to have nationally or locally.
Previously, a N.C. State Bureau of Investigation review found protesters were not blocked by police and had possible escape routes. The SBI said one exit path was on South College Street, though the review notes protesters were hit by chemical agents while running into the area.
The SBI report also noted no officers in riot gear — those closest to where tear gas was deployed — were wearing body cameras, as officers normally do. The report said CMPD told SBI agents that the cameras that are worn on normal officer uniforms could not be worn with riot gear. All officers are now required to wear body-cameras, Jennings said — otherwise, it constitutes a policy violation.
Still, several City Council members say they want the department to go further with reforms. A push for police reform in Charlotte was reignited after nearly a month of protests following Floyd’s death.
Vowing to “reimagine” the role of police officers, City Council earlier this summer embarked on its own sweeping review of CMPD policies — including de-escalation and use of force — that’s intended to incorporate feedback from local activists, law enforcement experts and Charlotte residents.
In September, the Safe Communities Committee will bring an initial round of recommendations to the full Council. The committee will then more broadly review CMPD’s budget.
Still, local activists have told the Observer they have mixed expectations on whether such actions will bring the type of change most needed.
Cedar Posts Take:
After five days of nonsense, CMPD Officers had reached the point where they had enough of the BLM Antifa Wactivists. In order to put an end to the looting, arson, vandalism, violence and overtime CMPD put into action a plan to end the protests. The chain of command from the top (Chief Putney and Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones) to the boots on the street agreed to hit them and hit them hard.
Chief Putney would later tell Charlotte City Council it was all on him.
George Floyd's death was tragic, yet just one in a long line of non-compliant felons who have died at the hands of police officers. But Floyd like Rashad Brooks and now Jacob Blake all have a common thread and it is not the color of their skin but their inability to not resist arrest.
Floyd we now know had a fatal level of fentanyl in his system. That combined with his COVID-19 diagnosis, heart condition and stress of his arrest either caused or greatly contributed to his death. This doesn't excuse the fact that officers failed to recognize the severity of his situation.
Blake was also non-compliant and again resisted arrest. Blake was armed with a weapon and attempting to flee a felony warrant. Officers perhaps should have gone hands on sooner but most department's force continuum aka matrix prevent hands on for suspects who are only offering non-passive resistance.
Unlike Kenosha, Atlanta, Portland ,Seattle and Minneapolis; Charlotte law enforcement decided not to let the looters loot and to restore order. And the plan worked.
The anarchists were told several times to disburse, they didn't.
Going forward perhaps CMPD's plan was too harsh, perhaps just a little too sexy. But it is now clearly time to ban roving meandering protest marches in Charlotte. These have not been "mostly peaceful" protests, these events have been low level and full on riots. The people in Charlotte's streets are not protestors they are anarchists. Their cause is neither noble or valid it is not about BLM it is only to create anarchy and to destroy civil society.
Continued tolerance of roving protest marches is unacceptable to the taxpayers and law abiding citizens of Charlotte, and while the right to free speech and peaceable assembly is undeniable the rights of the majority to enjoy a crime free society void of civil disturbance is paramount.