CMPD Under Temporary Restraining Order That Curbs Dept.’s Use Of Chemical Agents

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A judge issued a temporary restraining order against the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Friday, following a lawsuit from civil rights advocates, journalists, and protesters. The State Bureau of Investigation’s review of CMPD’s Fourth Street incident, where protesters were trapped and gassed, was also made public the same day.

“It would not be in my nature to purposefully, forcefully, use riot control agents against people who had no avenue of escape. That was never the intent. We’ll get better. We’re trying to get better,” says Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Deputy Chief Jeff Estes. He repeated again Friday that the department is a “learning agency,” made up of people who are not perfect. Estes says, “We take no pleasure if people are being irritated by the munitions.” And, “The tactic we used the night of the 2nd up on Fourth Street where the folks were doused with chemical munitions from the back end wont be repeated again.”

The SBI’s review was sent to the police department one week ago and shared with the public Friday. The five page report is essentially a timeline of events the night of June 2nd. All of the officers names are redacted. The report neither condemns the department’s tactic that night, nor exonerates the department. It does identify what it calls escape areas for protesters that were free of officers, but not free of smoke.

Under the conditions of Friday’s temporary restraining order, granted by a superior court judge, CMPD cannot trap, or “kettle” protesters, or use chemical munitions, irritants, explosives or rubber bullets on protesters unless the protesters are engaged in violence against people, not property damage.

Estes says of not being able to use chemical munitions for crowd control, “It’ll slow us down. But we have to make sure we find ways that it doesn’t slow us down in ways that compromises officer safety.”

Kristie Puckett-Williams with the ACLU of North Carolina was in the middle of the Fourth Street protest. She says, “I’m very happy with the ruling (Friday). I’m excited that CMPD has to look at other ways to crowd control and de-escalate situations that utilize the use of less than lethal weapons against people.” She continues, “Black Lives Matter and the courts are affirming that Black Lives Matter.”

The restraining order will remain in effect until a preliminary injunction hearing. That date has not been set. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police are still internally reviewing the Fourth Street incident.