Charlotte, NC – Democratic members of the Charlotte City Council have asked the city’s police force to back off their efforts to enforce impaired driving laws in areas where large numbers of illegal immigrants reside.
The councilmembers urged the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) to “cut back” on traffic checkpoints and overall drunk-driving enforcement in those areas, because it “makes illegal immigrants nervous to see the cops,” WBT reported.
Their suggestion was made during Monday’s city council meeting, after CMPD asked the city council to approve their routine traffic checkpoint grant.
The locations for the various checkpoints are determined by analyzing accident data to identify where high concentrations of drunk driving incidents and speed violations are occurring, WBT reported.
But during the meeting, Charlotte City Council member Braxton Winston demanded to know why the CMPD had conducted a checkpoint on Central Avenue during the week of Feb. 4, during the same timeframe that Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents were rounding up at least a dozen illegal aliens in the same area.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Deputy Police Chief Jeff Estes told Winston that his department had no prior knowledge of the simultaneous ICE operation, and denied having coordinated with federal authorities before the checkpoint was established.
“Every checkpoint we do is with the motoring public’s safety in mind, nothing to do with any other type of enforcement,” Chief Estes explained.
But that answer wasn’t enough for Winston, a Black Lives Matter activist who has accused CMPD of racism and brutality in the past, according to CNN.
He declared that the department should be more sensitive to illegal immigrants, and told them they should avoid establishing checkpoints in immigrant neighborhoods or anywhere near areas where federal agents are also conducting operations, WBT reported.
“I understand our CMPD might have been using it to try to make our community safer, but it…continues to erode the trust within our immigrant communities that are highly concentrated right in that area,” Winston said.
“It makes it hard for us to execute on these promises of bridging differences,” he added.
Council member Larken Egleston said that focusing on traffic safety is important, but that making sure immigrants don’t think that the police are working with ICE is even more so.
“You know what? This week, that might not be as important as maintaining the trust in our community – particularly our immigrant community – and not allowing that narrative to be fed that we are somehow partnering with federal agents,” Egleston said.
Republican Council member Edmund Driggs countered Egleston and Winston, and said that their logic was “utterly twisted.”
“I’m sure there are people who will be excited by your dark insinuation,” Driggs said.
“CMPD has a job to do,” he added. “This has been politicized and distorted in a way that undermines the ability of CMPD to do their mission.”
The city council ultimately voted to approve the grant, but Winston did request that the city manager arrange a meeting for him with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney so he could further discuss his suggestion of keeping traffic checkpoints out of immigrant neighborhoods, WBT reported.
It was unclear if a meeting has been scheduled.