Tensions are high here on a Sunday afternoon at Park Road Park. We’re here on Charlotte’s South End enjoying an afternoon of Goombay Kickball Tournament play. We’re hanging in the the DMV Phenom’s dugout for the day. Players from the DC have traveled 330 miles to take the field with their North Carolina counterparts. Southern hip hop hits boom through the woods, teams warm up & spectators trickle in. It’s early, cool out & we’re excited for the first mach of the day (DMV Phenoms v. Stone Cold Kickers – Charlotte). Unless reminded by a cruiser or distant siren it’s easy to forget that something is bubbling.
(Protesters gather outside Charlotte City Hall.)
“We’ve been protesting all week!” shouted one of the Charlotte Stone Cold Kickers. It’s true. Protests have not subsided since day one of Keith Lamont Scott’s shooting. Upon arrival, there seemed to be no end in sight. Unfortunately, much like the turnout of this game, a good fight isn’t enough. Washington interests usually come out on top.
Today, as protesters continue do demand the release of all police footage, it became a felony to release any such footage unless some very broad and overlapping qualifiers are met. Police departments may deny disclosure if:
(1) If the person requesting disclosure of the recording is a person [not] authorized to receive disclosure..
(2) If the recording contains information that is otherwise confidential or exempt from disclosure or release under State or federal law.
(3) If disclosure would reveal information regarding a person that is of a highly sensitive personal nature.
(4) If disclosure may harm the reputation or jeopardize the safety of a person.
(5) If disclosure would create a serious threat to the fair, impartial, and orderly administration of justice.
(6) If confidentiality is necessary to protect either an active or inactive internal or criminal investigation or potential internal or criminal investigation.
Requests that meet these requirements will be denied. Denied requests may be appealed through court order. However, the law obliges judges to follow police discretion to make their decisions. Appeals may only be permitted if Judges find there was an “abuse of discretion” on the original decision.
Charlotte’s citizens have responded as quickly as the legislation emerged. Filed in late April, this strong legislation was amended up and somehow, approved by North Carolina’s house & senate. North Carolina’s State government has been bulking up legislation as city councils across the state sign ordinances into law to protect citizens from unfair treatment. Unfortunately, success stories like the Civil Liberties & Non-Discrimination ordinances are erased by state House and Senate votes & solidified with a broad stroke from Governor Pat McCrory’s pen.
This shift in policy could also create major public safety issues by putting citizens in possible danger from deviant actions by individuals taking improper advantage of a bad policy.
No, this isn’t Pat McCrory’s opinion on police control of camera footage. Nor is it his response to overreaching state laws enabling continued discrimination. This was a preemptive statement, sent via email to Charlotte’s City Council preceding their vote on Ordinance 2056. This law was meant to protect citizens and businesses from discrimination bases on race, gender, religion & citizenship status. Those who opposed the law (and laws like it) focused on the bathroom implications. H2 was passed on the coat tails of these fears. What many didn’t see is just how many people were intended to be protected by the Charlotte Ordinance 7056. It reach out to employment policy, city contracts, police interactions, free enterprise, the enjoyment of public space and yes, restrooms.
Trickle down legislation seems to be calming the fruits of many movements across North Carolina. Sadly, this isn’t just a state trend though. Scaling down citizens rights and freedoms to avoid government headaches is the new trend. City mayors and council members stand on the forefronts of these battles. They find themselves pinched between the wishes of their constituents & their political peers. While this should be a no brainer, as a council member, considering “Who’s vote do I cast?” It’s also a no brainer how this process usually turns out.
(#TerrenceSterling – 3rd & M Streets NW – Washington, DC)
Even here in Washington, DC council often finds themselves pinched between a pimp and a hard place. Just last fall Council was polishing off the final pieces of police body camera legislation. In the final minutes before the vote cell phones started buzzing. As members prepared to vote you could literally hear the calls/text coming into their devices. It was, then, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier. She was calling council to add an amendment. In fact, council never read the amendment in black & white before voting. A ‘read back’ was called so members could year what was coming down the pipeline. Though the Chief’s true intentions we hidden from members who could cause a fuss, the amendment spoke volumes. The At then end of that day, Washington, DC citizens gained extra protection from an amendment that states:
“Members [MPD officers] may review their BWC recordings or BWC recordings that have been shared with them to assist in initial report writing, except in cases involving a police shooting”
Keeping in mind the sly nature of the introduction & immediate passing of the amendment, Ward-5 Councilman Kenyon McDuffie Stated:
“We need to make sure officers write an initial report based on their perspective when an incident happens—not craft a report that utilizes body camera [film] to augment it.”
A Khaled Key to this case and many others is the handling of police body cameras and public asses to their footage. Footage is often released like leaks to gems from a 5 Mic album. When they surface they’re partial, redacted videos, released from one source at at time. This process has activists here in the south crying foul. They say the end result is too chopped up, slopped up even. Viewers recognize the signature traits of the Hype Williams’ & Spike Lee’s of the FOP; and they don’t like it. Accountability often appears to be inching closer while transparency seems more and more skewed, stretched & distorted. The public does not digest the full scope of what occurred if they’re spoon fed curated facts. Delivery matters. Fact. BWC’s (Body Worn Cameras) were promoted as a tool for those charged to protect and serve. Once legislation ensures data that goes into the tool almost never comes out, as in NC, or those with the tool can use it for self preservation, like in DC, many ask, “A tool for whom?”
Here, in Washington, DC, two officers chose not to engage their BWC’s after being order not to engage a motorcyclist. Instead, an eyewitness account has the officers barricading the biker, causing a collision. After which the passenger side officer rolled down his window & fired two shots, striking Terrence Sterling in the back and neck.
(Supporters wrote letters to Rayquan Borum. Arrested for Justin Carr’s murder during the protests. It is widely accepted by the public that he was not the shooter.)
Charlotte Uprising has certainly set a great example by leading in the realm of community organizing. They recruit, educate the public & establish tangible goals. Activists can connect with them for volunteer shifts, phone banking scripts and other useful information. Along with addressing broader concerns, Charlotte Uprising is demanding:
- [Y] The immediate end to the state off emergency, curfew & removal of the National Guard.
- [N] The immediate demilitarization of the police department & the immediate return of all military equipment.
- [N] The defunding of the police department (2017 budget: $246,644,617) and the redirection of those resources to the needs of our communities (including resources for jobs programs, affordable quality housing, transportation, holistic health and quality schools).
- [N] An independent investigation into the killing of Keith L. Scott and an investigation into the Charlotte Mecklenburg police department by the department of justice and a freeze on the nearly 1.5 million dollars awarded in federal grants annually to the department.
- [N] A release of the police report and body camera footage connected with the killing of Keith L. Scott & all other killings to the public and immediately repeal of HB 972, which restricts the ability of the public to access police body camera footage.
- [N] The immediate and unconditional release of all those arrested in connection with the uprising resulting from the killing of Keith L. Scott & the dropping of all charges.
- [N] The release of all the names of the officers involved in the killing of Keith L. Scott to the public followed by their firing, arrest and prosecution.
- [N] Reparations for the family of Keith L. Scott and all victims of police violence as well as the families of those who have been killed
- [N] Community control of the police, starting with the creation of a civilian oversight board that has the power to hire and fire officers, determine disciplinary actions as well as dictate police policies, priorities, and budgets. The board shall not include police representation and will be controlled by communities most impacted by policing and incarceration in Charlotte.
- [N] An end to the repression & targeting of protestors and all those engaged in the Charlotte uprising.
(A vigil for the lives lost.)
Mayors of cities like Chicago, Charlotte & Washington, DC hold press conferences after police shootings. They speak of transparency and accountability. These are abstract concepts to the public until steps are made towards demands being met. Mayors appear to advocate on behalf of their citizens regularly. They appear to protect their cities from big, scary government. When there’s public outcry over a police shooting, they release footage. When public perceptions shift, they shift their vote. At least that’s how it should work. Activists say the status quo will no longer suffice. The public needs leadership. Its one thing to propose solid legislation and lay down a piece of yourself through a vote, as officials choose to do. Today, that’s just not enough. The people want responsive leadership. A quality that comes from within. They don’t want officials who feel forced to choose, staring down the barrel of a pen. They want leaders who are compelled to act. In fact, they implore, “Lead or Leave.”