Charlotte, NC – Charlotte City Councilman Tariq Bokhari wrote an open letter to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department that detailed how a ride-along with officers on Friday night “changed me.”
The councilman came away from the experience with an entirely new understanding of what police officers deal with on a daily basis, and a new respect for a job he’d already held in high regard.
Bokhari said he decided to go on the ride-along on May 18 because it was National Police Week and there had been some “hurtful tweets” in the news, according to WSOC-TV.
Charlotte City Councilwoman LaWana Mayfield has been under fire for a tweet she posted that said “Being Black in America under #45 has created homegrown terrorist wearing blue uniforms. #AReckoningIsComing” on March 26.
On Thursday, in the middle of the memorial week for fallen officers, Mayfield tweeted her defense of that comment and added an allegation of police corruption.
"I have and continue to be one of the strongest supporters of law enforcement," she tweeted, "but I will NOT turn a blind eye to corruption, assaults, and the killings of unarmed black & brown people. If you are offended by my comments and not the situation YOU need to re-evaluate."
Bokhari’s request to ride-along was considered an olive branch on behalf of the non-police-hating members of the council.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD shared the letter Bokhari wrote after his experience spending a Friday night in a police car on their Facebook page.
The letter follows in its entirety:
I decided to do a ride along given it was police week, budget season, and some hurtful tweets were in the news; and I asked Chief to drop me in somewhere that I could really get a feel for the reality of the job you guys are faced with at its most challenging and most impactful.
So Friday night they sent me out to Metro 3rd shift.
I started the night at 8:15 roll call where Sgt Overcash prepared the shift with updates for the night.
Then I paired up with Officer Koukopoulos and we hit the road.
I assumed we would ease our way into the shift... but the next 9 hours were a complete blur.
The first call we went to was a large gathering of people who were out of their mind concerned about a young child who was potentially being abused in an apartment that they wouldn’t let anyone in.
I joined the officers once the occupant allowed us in, and while the child wasn’t there, I was petrified by the experience.
Walking in a dark apartment up stairs and around corners and seeing a handgun laying on the bed, all the while not knowing if someone was about to jump out and shoot us... well... it made me realize just how dangerous the job can be at every corner.
You never know when that moment might be coming. It also made me realize how hardened to it you all are.
John and the Metro guys on scene with us didn’t even flinch. Heart rates probably didn’t even rise. And the rest of the night made me understand why - its just another day at the office.
We proceeded on over a dozen calls for the rest of the night - from multiple Domestic Violence calls, to picking up folks with potential mental problems to deliver them to the magistrate when they didn’t expect us and didn’t want to go, to responding to shots fired, to searching the ground for spent shells, to helping save a man that was shot.
So what did I learn? I saw the fear and danger you guys face. I saw some of the worst of our city. I saw the best of our department - how you guys acted, whether it was a traffic stop of someone yelling profanity at you.
I also saw some of the best of our city - in that first call I described above... after all the anger and fear and people yelling at you - I saw a couple kids come up and start talking to you.
And you guys went to the cruiser and started handing out stickers and making some jokes with the kids. And one of them came up to me and said they made a poem at school that week in appreciation of police week and our officers who came out to protect them when they needed it. Amazing.
Friday night changed me. I was always a big supporter of what you all do, but after serving on council and dealing with these issues at a macro, policy level... I saw a lot that made me think differently.
Putting aside the danger and the fast pace of the job that leaves little time for breaks or catching your breath... I saw a portion of our community that loved and appreciated you.
I saw a portion that probably didn’t realize it but was abusing the system and wasting your time - but you still had to address.
I saw a portion that was mad at you because of who you were. I saw a portion who was mad because you weren’t doing what they wanted you to do - and I saw in those examples something that gave me an ah ha moment - you patiently explained the law you have spent so much time learning - and they got frustrated only knowing that they just wanted you to make someone leave a public area who was bothering them or help them get a child they didn’t have full custody of... and because of that lack of understanding they blamed you for not doing what they wanted.
Most importantly - it clicked for me that while we (government) fail to address certain areas of law or policy that don’t work, or broader challenges remain unsolved at the local, state or federal level - you remain steadfast and true - but you also remain on the front lines having to work within the bounds of a sometimes unreasonable situation or a broken system.
I’m sending you this message not because I know exactly how to fix any of that. I just want you to know I saw it. And I recognize it. And I appreciate you all even more after seeing that.
I promise you all this - I will work hard to make this budget produce an extra-ordinary outcome relating to your salary.
And I promise you one more thing - the sentiments expressed in last week’s tweet is not how this city feels about you.
You are loved and respected. If Officer Koukopoulos and the folks I spent Friday night with are representative of how you all carry yourself each day...
You represent the best of this city. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you all since my ride along. Keep doing what you are doing and let me know what else we can be doing for you.