In an open forum discussion on Monday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers asked the community to remember that police officers are people, too. The forum follows a recent incident involving a video of an officer striking a woman repeatedly during her arrest.
Major Stephen Fischbach said the officers often respond to situations without knowing whether a suspect is dangerous.
Fischbach, alongside six other CMPD officers, participated in an open discussion forum hosted by the Urban League of Central Carolinas Young Professionals.
Mistakes, while avoidable, are viable to happen, he said.
“We’re making split-second decisions. We train in the academy, but at the end of the day, we are dealing with human beings,” Fischbach said, referring to the officers.
The goal, Fishbach said, is to be more “accessible” to the community and build better relationships.
Major Jackie Bryley has said it’s important for officers to be more mindful of their responses to calls.
Bryley, who’s worked with the department for 25 years, said officers are required to respond to each call for service in the safest and most effective way based on the situation, like how they communicate with civilians.
“I tell officers to speak to someone the same way, the same way you want them to talk to you.”
Communication is vital for both officers and civilians, Bryley said.
“It’s a two-way street when it comes to de-escalation,” she said.
Since the death of George Floyd in 2020, CMPD has been more intentional with how officers build trust with the community, Captain Bret Balamucki said.
Balamucki said the department has launched a number of community programs for residents to interact with police.
“There is power in partnership, and we can’t do our job without the help of the community,” he said.
One notable program is Walk the Block, a community engagement initiative where residents take a stroll with officers around Uptown to discuss neighborhood issues.
CMPD also offers a Ride Along program designed to allow residents to observe police operations from an internal perspective by riding with on-duty police officers.
The programs have been beneficial thus far, as residents express ways they can do better.
“Everybody wants to have a safe neighborhood, and we want to be a part of that,” Balamucki said.