Chief: Training under review after police shooting
CHARLOTTE (AP) — Mecklenburg County’s police chief says he believes his officers receive adequate training, but practices are under review after an officer fatally shot an unarmed man in September.
Chief Rodney Monroe told The Charlotte Observer his department doesn’t put improperly trained officers on the street.
“We make every concerted effort that we can to look at the most updated and relevant training when it comes to our officers,” he said. “But you’re in a profession in which things happen so fast.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Officer Randall Kerrick, 27, is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the death of 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell, a former Florida A&M football player. Kerrick is white. Ferrell, who is black, had pounded on the door of a nearby home for help after wrecking his car. But the woman who answered thought he was a robber and called 911.
Kerrick, the least experienced of the three officers who responded, was the only one who fired his gun. Police say he struck Ferrell 10 times.
The shooting sparked racial tensions in the city. Civil rights groups called for better diversity training.
Ferrell’s fiancee, Caché Heidel, and the Ferrell family attorney said they believe Kerrick’s unconscious biases overruled his training. Heidel said Kerrick wasn’t “fully prepared for that situation that night.”
Monroe, who is black, disagreed. “He wouldn’t have been out there” if he wasn’t properly prepared, the chief told the newspaper.
He said his department’s cultural diversity curriculum exceeds state standards and is more extensive than many agency police departments.
However, the chief said, an internal review is looking at the training of recruits, officer training and policies regarding use of force. The department held two forums after Kerrick’s arrest so officers could ask questions.
“Anytime you arrest one of your own police officers and charge him with voluntary manslaughter, that creates a great amount of fear within your own organization,” Monroe said. “People wanted to know to make sure what they’re thinking and how they’re trained and how they’re operating — that they’re still on the right track.”
According to The Observer’s review, all of the department’s nearly 1,900 sworn officers have gone through diversity training. As recruits, Charlotte-Mecklenburg officers undergo 18 hours of diversity-related training required by the state, plus an additional 24 hours required by the department. To maintain their certification, officers must go through two hours of training yearly.
Roughly half of the department’s officers have gone through two days of training called “dismantling racism,” which aims to educate officers on deeply rooted biases.
That training started with 2012 recruits. Kerrick, a second-year officer at the time, hadn’t yet been scheduled to attend. It could take several years for the entire department to complete it, said Maj. Mike Adams, who oversees training for the department.
“We give some considerable time talking about implicit bias and how the brain works,” said Elisa Chinn-Gary, a family court administrator who helps run the program.
Officers also receive 76 hours of firearms training, 56 hours on arrest techniques and controlling suspects, and four hours on when to use a specific type of force. At the forum, officers asked for more training in hand-to-hand fighting, Monroe said.
He said one of the best ways to improve race relations is by building a diverse department. Seven years ago, 78 percent of officers were white.
Currently, 70 percent of the department’s officers are white, 20 percent are black and less than 10 percent is Hispanic. That compares to a city population that is 50 percent white, 35 percent black and 13 percent Hispanic.
“We’re not there yet,” Monroe said.