CHARLOTTE (AP) — The recent trial of a white police officer accused in the shooting death of an unarmed black man has created a rift in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, but the division hasn’t affected public safety, the chief said Thursday.
“I think this has unearthed some division that was there anyway, and now we have to deal with it, talk through it,” Kerr Putney said. “Get a better understanding and work to address it.”
Putney said his department has differing opinions as any family does. But he said like any professional organization, it can set the opinions aside and do the work the city expects the department to do.
The chief held a series of interviews with local media in the wake of the mistrial declared in the case of Officer Randall Kerrick, who was accused of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Jonathan Ferrell two years ago.
Prosecutors said nonlethal force should have been used to subdue Ferrell, a former Florida A&M football player, in September 2013. Two officers with Kerrick didn’t fire their guns. Kerrick’s attorneys said the officer feared for his life when he shot and killed Ferrell while responding to a breaking-and-entering call.
The jury in the case deadlocked with an 8-4 vote in favor of acquittal, and a mistrial was declared last Friday.
Given the dispute of the use of force, Putney said he plans to change his department’s training so police learn the same policies and apply them the same way.
Among the training changes Putney said he wants to put in place is more “scenario-based” instruction to prepare officers for real-life encounters, and more hand-to-hand training to provide more options in subduing a subject.
Putney also said he wants to improve morale and establish trust.
“I think at the end of the day, we have to establish a work environment where there is some trust,” Putney said.
Asked about the prospect of a retrial, Putney said he doesn’t have an opinion on whether North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper should pursue it. Instead, he said his priority is re-establishing trust between his department and the community.