Urgent Calls for Justice in Charlotte as Window for Police Transparency Closes
Blasting officials' "piecemeal" transparency, rights groups demand public release of all footage and audio recordings of Keith Lamont Scott's death
Not satisfied with the portions of body and dashcam footage showing the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott released over the weekend, community members and civil rights groups on Monday continued to demand transparency and accountability from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD).
Condemning local law enforcement for their "piecemeal" approach to transparency, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina has again asked the CMPD to publicly release all footage and audio recordings of the events surrounding Scott's shooting.
"The videos released this weekend raise a host of questions about why police shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, and whether, in doing so, the officers involved violated state or federal law, in addition to failing to follow the department's own rules regarding the use of deadly force, de-escalation, when to wear and activate body cameras, and more," said Susanna Birdsong, policy counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina.
"In the interest of full transparency," Birdsong continued, the CMPD "must stop releasing information to the public on a piecemeal basis and disclose all remaining body and dash camera footage, as well as audio of dispatch recordings, of the moments before and after Mr. Scott was killed."
"The public and Mr. Scott's family deserve to see and hear all available information about whether something was in his hand and why a man who was suspected of no crime, other than the newly disclosed accusation that he possessed a minor amount of marijuana, is now dead," she added.
Though the family has repeatedly insisted that Scott did not possess a weapon—even in her cellphone recording of the shooting, Scott's wife Rakeyia repeatedly told police, "he doesn't have a gun"—officials claim that he was armed and allegedly found a gun at the scene. During a Saturday press conference, officials said they recovered a gun and ankle holster bearing Scott's fingerprints.
The ACLU further expressed concern over the officers' inappropriate use of force against Scott, who they were informed had suffered a traumatic brain injury, as well as the shooting officer's failure to use a body camera.
"The department must not simply run out the clock," Birdsong added, referring to the controversial new law, HB972, set to take effect on October 1. The law bars the public from seeing body camera footage without a court order.
Picking up on the urgency of the moment, the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch of the NAACP, and the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice on Monday is holding a Rally for Justice & Transparency at the Little Rock AME Zion Church in Charlotte. The groups are expected to issue a list of demands, which will include the immediate repeal of HB972.
Charlotte organizers and activists also released a statement Monday expressing "no confidence" in CMPD Chief Kerr Putney's "ability to either serve or protect our community."
The statement reads:
We believe the execution of Keith Scott by CMPD, the lack of transparency on the part of the CMPD in providing explanations for Keith Scott's death, and attempts to intimidate and stifle protests reflect and established pattern of misconduct and cover-up on the part of CMPD. The outrage being seen, heard, and felt in Charlotte this week is not solely about the Kieth Scott case, but rather this moment represents a tipping point for a community that has had its trust repeatedly broken by CMPD. Keith Scott's family is not the first to demand the release of police footage connected to the death of a loved one at the hands of police.
Putney had indicated during a weekend press conference that once HB972 went into effect, the public would be required to obtain a court order to access the remaining videos related to Scott's killing.
However, the organizers say that they've examined HB972 and that language "makes it clear that this new law does not apply to the video recorded in the Keith Scott case." Thus, they are calling for the CMPD to release all video related to the Scott case, "as well as any videos from any cases prior to October 1st."