CMPD Announces Updates to Protest Response Policy
Less than two weeks after a judge dissolved a restraining order prohibiting CMPD from using riot control agents such as tear gas to disperse crowds, Chief Johnny Jennings announced at a press conference on Wednesday that the department has updated its own protest response policy, including how officers are allowed to use riot control agents to disperse crowds. Many of the changes appear to stem from a June 2 incident caught on Queen City Nerve’s livestream feed in which police trapped a group of protesters within a city block using tear gas and shot pepper balls at them from above.
According to Jennings, the new protest response policy states that CMPD will no longer expect that dispersal orders still stand for a crowd that has broken up and reassembled at a different location. Jennings stated that additional dispersal orders must be given any time a crowd reassembles, and officers must leave a clear exit route for crowds being ordered to disperse, communicating that route clearly and repeatedly and not allowing any officers to block it. Jennings added that police can no longer use tear gas or other riot control agents as a mean to corral crowds or block off their exit route.
“We will not use riot control agents that will have a crowd blocked in somewhere and make the crowd have to go through that riot control agent,” Jennings said, “That’s no longer… that’s been identified and clarified within our policy as well.
The press conference came one day after Jennings addressed members of the Safe Communities Committee on what policy changes still need to be made to satisfy the 8 Can’t Wait initiatives adopted by Charlotte City Council on June 5.
Police Release List of Businesses Cited for COVID-19 Violations
CMPD on Friday released a list of 22 businesses that have been cited for violating Gov. Cooper’s Phase 2 COVID-19 orders, with half of the businesses being gaming arcades that have refused to shut down, and the other half being ABC-permitted nightclubs and bars that have opened against the order or restaurants that have been cited for social distancing violations or serving alcohol past 11 p.m. CMPD said officers had visited 289 locations to enforce the orders as of Friday, 217 of which were ABC-permitted businesses and the majority of the rest were arcades.
“Every complaint is vetted for an appropriate response, and the vast majority of reports do not involve any activity that violates the order or proclamation,” read a statement from CMPD. “For those that do, our efforts remain the same in that we work towards voluntary cooperation with each member of the community through education and conversations, only resorting to citations and/or arrests as a last measure.”
According to the latest info from Mecklenburg County Public Health (MCPH) released Friday afternoon, there have been 21,470 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among county residents, resulting in 230 deaths. That’s an increase of 1,231 cases since the same time last week, with 28 more deaths, though some of those deaths occurred in July and were only added to the total this week. An average of 170 people have been in the hospital on any given day due to COVID over the past week, and the percentage of tests coming back positive is at around 8.7%, a decrease in both statistics. CMPD announced on Friday that 28 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since March, 23 of whom being sworn officers.
Abari Announces Permanent Closure
Abari Game Bar owner Zach Pulliam announced in a Facebook post on Thursday that he is shutting the doors on his popular bar and arcade after four years thanks to rising rent and having to shut down for five months due to COVID-19. In the heartfelt post, Pulliam described how he came to launch the bar, the work he put into renovating the building, and how he built a community around video games and inclusivity.
However, the rising tide of development in the area where his bar stood on North Davidson Street, at the crossroads of rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods like NoDa, Belmont, Villa Heights and Optimist Park, was too much to push back against, especially during a pandemic.
“Like most places in the city, developers are stifling creativity and killing small business. Charlotte has a huge identity crisis going on with a mass exodus of culture and originality and a huge influx of luxury apartments, condos, and regional/national chain businesses,” Pulliam wrote. “With the uncertainty of the future of the virus and closings, it is unclear on the future of Abari. As it currently stands, Abari will not be reopening. While I will continue to look for another location, I do not have any idea on if reopening is a possibility. A combination of the virus and unaffordable rent are the main reasons for this.”
County Hires New Social Services Director
At a time when homelessness and affordable housing have become problems impossible for the rest of Charlotte to ignore, and the resumption of eviction hearings will mean a rush of people in need of county services, Mecklenburg County on Friday announced a new hire in a critical position, as John Eller will take over as director of the Department of Social Services (DSS) in October.
Eller has 20 years of experience in social service at the local, state and national levels. He resigned his position as county manager of Davie County this week, and before that served as social services director of Catawba County. He has also served as division director for Mecklenburg County DSS Services for Adults division.
Mecklenburg County’s Department of Social Services is comprised of over 1,300 employees who provide federally and state-mandated services such as child and adult welfare, and public assistance programs to include Medicaid, Food & Nutrition Services, and Work First.
Teenager Murdered, Bringing Yearly Homicide Total to 72
The murder of an 18-year-old man in southeast Charlotte on Wednesday brought the number of homicides in Charlotte this year to 72. At around 3:10 p.m. on Wednesday, police responded to a shooting call on East Independence Boulevard near Wallace Road and found 18-year-old Jarele Blackson lying in the parking lot of Life Storage, dead of a gunshot wound. Blackson would have turned 19 on Aug. 22.