Mecklenburg DA calls for independent investigations into police shootings

There will soon be new rules when it comes to how police shootings in Mecklenburg County are investigated.

Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merrieweather announced Friday that there will be independent investigations conducted for future officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death. 

CMPD did not respond to a request for comment.

The announcement comes a week after Merriweather cleared CMPD officer Wende Kerl in the fatal shooting of Danquirs Franklin

Merriweather says future officer-involved shootings will be investigated by the State Bureau of Investigation. That is a procedure followed by every law enforcement agency in Mecklenburg County, the DA said, except CMPD, which investigates itself.

"CMPD has conducted professional and extraordinarily thorough investigations of shootings involving the department's officers, and the District Attorney's Office has been confident in the integrity of those investigations," said Merriweather. "Nevertheless, just as we counsel our prosecutors and staff against the appearance of a conflict of interest, we must do what we can to ensure we avoid perceived conflict in these investigations whenever possible. The criminal justice system cannot - and should not - function without public confidence."

Merriweather was appointed in 2017, a year after the violent Charlotte riots that were sparked by the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. Police were cleared in that shooting as well. At the time, Merriweather said there needs to be transparency in charging decisions.

The DA plans to meet next week with the Citizens Review Board, which recommended independent investigations of officer-involved shootings.

The announcement was praised by Safe Coalition NC, a group that advocates for trust and accountability in law enforcement.

"Thank you @Merriweather4DA," the group tweeted out. "This ends the day of @CMPD investigating themselves. Big win for transparency & ehtics in Mecklenburg County."

SBI, the state-level law enforcement agency, investigates officer-involved shootings at the request of police chiefs, sheriffs or district attorneys. 

"Agency heads are meeting next week with the DA to discuss operationally how this agreement will work," said SBI spokesperson Anjanette Grube.