POLICING THE POLICE
Charlotte Magazine|November 2020
If they wanted, City Council members could add teeth to public oversight of CMPD. Will they?
JEN TOTA McGIVNEY

BLUE LIGHTS ILLUMINATED La Becky Roe’s rearview mirror. The two NYPD police officers who pulled her over in her Brooklyn neighborhood were white. Roe is Black. She asked them why they stopped her, and they ignored her. When she asked again, they demanded her license, registration, and insurance card but offered no explanation for the stop.

Only later, after they told Roe she was free to go, did she tell them she was an NYPD officer, too.

“Why didn’t you just say you were a cop in the beginning?” one officer asked.

“Why do I have to say I’m a cop,” she shot back, “to get treated with respect?”

“This could’ve been my mother; this could’ve been my dad,” Roe explains two decades later. “They want respect, too. I wanted to know what the response would be if I’m just Joe Citizen.”

Roe, who moved to Charlotte in 2002, is among the newest members of the city’s Citizens Review Board, the 11-member civilian body that reviews cases in which citizens have appealed a police ruling after an official complaint of police misconduct. Roe spent 12 years as an NYPD cop, and she wishes more people recognized officers as fellow humans. But as a Black woman and the mother of an autistic son, she wants more officers to see beyond race and abilities to recognize the humanity of the people they interact with.

“I’m retired law enforcement. I’m a Black woman with a dad, a brother, son, nephews, and godsons. I felt a calling to join the Citizens Review Board,” Roe says. “I wanted to have a say in whether or not a police officer was right or wrong. It’s not all the time that one gets the opportunity to do that.”

Roe joined during a pivotal summer. During protests after police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, CMPD deployed tear gas, pepper balls, and rubber bullets against demonstrators. On the night of June 2, officers restricted a group of about 200 to one block of Fourth Street uptown by blocking off both intersections—a controversial law enforcement practice called “kettling”—as they gassed and fired pepper balls near them. The tactics have drawn demands for more civilian oversight of the department.

“It’s pretty obvious we have the same goals in mind, to be able to provide some transparency and trust within the community,” says CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings. “The relationship is strong … and we’re going to continue to move forward and hopefully make our department better.”

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