The head of the US justice department’s civil rights division said last week she was “extremely concerned” about the apparent profiling of black people by Charlotte police and has launched an investigation into the department.
In a letter to the city of Charlotte, Vanita Gupta sent a “deeply troubling” report of her office’s examination into police practices over the last month and a half.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have been under fire after a couple was shot by an officer this week, on their eighth wedding anniversary.
In a letter which is separate from the FBI inquiry, Gupta raised questions about racial profiling by police in a letter addressed to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief, Kerr Putney.
The report, obtained by the Guardian, said that “racial disparities in encounters” were found and that “restrictions on the use of force … disproportionately and egregiously impact black individuals”.
According to a report, more than one third of people who were pepper sprayed during a brief wave of unrest following Keith Lamont Scott’s death were black. The report showed that while black men were 33% of the arrests made, they made up 85% of those charged with violent crimes following arrest.
The report also found that officers were reportedly “unaware of a single document” that recommended that police conduct wellness checks in the event that someone felt they were suffering from “emotional stress or significant emotional stress”.
Gupta also called on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department to strengthen the “hospice-centered mental health policy” and consider adopting another policy regarding contact with homeless people that was developed by department social workers in Baltimore.
“As we have seen, conducting required mental health screening and intervention policies when people feel threatened is critical to ensuring the safety of all those involved, including our officers,” Gupta said in a statement.
The letter comes just days after Putney announced that the investigation would be led by the department’s federal agents. The federal authorities will work alongside the state of North Carolina, the FBI and the US justice department.
Gupta said, in response to last month’s assassination of the three officers in Dallas, she is concerned about the continued violence and asked whether the investigation would include violence against police.
“We are particularly troubled by the prospect of our federal partners being ensnared in the ongoing cycle of violence against law enforcement officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge,” Gupta said.