New CMPD campaign aims to help public understand body cam footage policy

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg police launched a new campaign Wednesday to help the public understand why the department does not release body camera video after deadly police shootings.

When there is a controversial shooting, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said the first thing people need to understand is that he can’t release the body camera video.

[LINK: CMPD Body Worn Camera Info]

According to state law, that decision can only be made by a judge.

[ALSO READ: CMPD chief fields questions from neighbors days after officer kills armed man]

"I'm OK with the law, I think it's more appropriate,” Putney said. “It takes a bit of objectivity and places it in the hands of the right person."

The superior court judge with the power to seal or release CMPD's body cam video will decide Thursday if the video from Charlotte's latest officer-involved shooting will be made public.

Tensions exploded in March after police killed 27-year-old Danquirs Franklin at a north Charlotte Burger King. Police said an officer shot him after he assaulted an employee, waved a gun around and refused to drop it.

[RELATED: Man shot, killed by officer had confrontation with employees, source says]

Some protesters said he was unarmed and are demanding to see the body camera footage.

In the hours following the shooting, protesters gathered and held signs that said, "Police killed an unarmed black man."

When officers tried to calm emotions, one protester yelled, "Why should anybody talk to you?"

When asked about the tensions that often follow deadly police shootings, Putney said, "People who want to see everything right now, slow down a bit."

He said body cameras don't tell the whole story and that the judge also needs to consider evidence from the scene and statements from witnesses before making a decision.

"It takes weeks for us to get statements locked in,” the chief said. “We have people who say they saw things, and then when we talk to them, it turns out not to be the case."

Putney won't oppose the release of the body cam video in court Thursday but said he will always oppose a rush to judgment.

"My only reservation would be, do we release it immediately, within a day or two? There's no way to do an investigation this complex in two days," Putney said.

CMPD will continue holding community meetings to try and ease tensions whenever the department is waiting for a judge to make a body camera decision.

While officers can't control the release of the footage, Putney said the department is changing what it can control and is revamping its “use of force” policies to focus more on de-escalation techniques.

The department has also created a new website to answer questions related to officer-involved shootings.