CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police sergeant has been suspended for two weeks after a private conversation was caught on body cam during a June 2 tear gas incident in uptown Charlotte.
CMPD publicly released video Wednesday of the incident, which happened on 4th Street during protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Min.
The police sergeant’s comments, called inappropriate and insensitive by CMPD, were revealed as the footage was being reviewed. In addition to being suspended for two weeks, the disciplined sergeant will not be eligible for certain promotions for a two year period of time.
The conversation also sparked an internal investigation.
After a petition to the courts, CMPD has released 51 videos from surveillance and body worn camera footage of the June 2 incident where protesters say they were trapped by police on both sides without a safe exit route. In an independent review of the incident, the State Bureau of Investigation said protesters did have a clear route and CMPD followed policy.
In the body worn camera footage, it appears there was a plan by CMPD bike unit leaders to purposefully tear gas protesters on both sides on 4th street.
In the newly-released footage, one officer explained what they plan to do to another and said “we’re going to stay here and watch the show.”
“Wave goodbye, they’re all about to get gassed,” an officer said in part of the video.
This surveillance video shows the riot squad hiding behind a building on the left, then jumping out and deploying chemical agents when protesters get by.
“Rory’s got a platoon on Tyron, out of sight, Dan’s platoon is on college, out of sight. We’re going to push their a** straight up 4th. As soon as we get them on 4th we got a bottle neck now. Rory’s squad is going to step out and hammer their a**. And when they start running down, Dan’s platoon is going to hammer their a**,” the officer said.
This plan was the talk of the night between officers.
“They must have some big a** plan. Do you know what it is? No. You can tell Dans has something up his sleeves,” an officer said in the video.
CMPD has not said what was the exact comment that caused the sergeant’s suspension.
That body worn camera video was taken just moments before protesters marched down 4th. That protest group said they were marching peacefully when CMPD officers trapped them with tear gas on both sides.
They escaped through a parking garage gate to get away from the gas.
CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings said in a press conference Wednesday morning that although it was determined that policy was followed, he doesn’t want to see something like the 4th street incident happen again.
“We also see the other side of that although the tactic was acceptable, when you look at the aesthetics of it, and how the people in the protest thought they were boxed in because of the smoke and the cloud and they could not see on the other side of it, we realized very quickly, that is not something we want to repeat,” Chief Jennings said.
A judge ordered release of the video after a court hearing on Friday, August 21, a CMPD source with knowledge of the court order told WBTV one day before the release.
Members of the Charlotte City Council met in closed session Tuesday night to watch the video, which includes more than 100 hours from roughly 50 different video sources, including police body cameras, helicopter video and surveillance video from the Government Center.
CMPD says they petitioned for the release of the videos and wanted to be transparent with the community.
All officers are required to wear body camera and turn the cameras on when they encounter the public, police said during a Wednesday press briefing.
The actions that were taken on June 2, at the time, were within CMPD’s policy, officers say. But that policy has since changed.
Moving forward, CMPD says police will give orders loud and clear when a dispersal order is given. “We want to make sure everybody has an opportunity to leave,” police say on exit routes, which will not be blocked.
The video intends to bring additional transparency to an incident in which protesters said they were effectively trapped when CMPD officers deployed tear gas from both sides of 4th Street.
Video from Queen City Nerve first brought attention to the department’s use of chemical munitions during protests that night.
In the days following the incident, then-CMPD Chief Kerr Putney called what happened a mistake and said officers are working to continue to build trust.
CMPD requested the State Bureau of Investigation review the incident and, separately, filed a petition asking a judge to enter an order allowing the department to release the video.
At the conclusion of Friday’s hearing, the CMPD source said, a judge entered an order allowing the department to show the video to council on Tuesday and to release the video publicly after noon on Wednesday.
The hearing was not made public on any court calendar or publicized ahead of time.
The name of the suspended sergeant was not released.