Since 2005, police officers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., have shot and killed 15 people and wounded 25 others. Many shootings were justified, but a a record-high settlement in a wrongful-death lawsuit with the family of an unarmed man killed in 2013 has raised questions about how the police department investigates shootings and other uses of force, says the Charlotte Observer. The city has paid $3.4 million to families in settlements over the last decade in cases involving five shootings. Despite the payments, Charlotte officers have rarely been suspended or fired for their use of deadly force. The Observer obtained city documents listing current and former officers involved in 67 shootings since 2005. Only one officer was fired. Another was suspended for two days. A third officer, Randall “Wes” Kerrick, goes on trial for manslaughter next week in the 2013 death of Jonathan Ferrell.
Kerrick is the first Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer charged with an on-duty shooting in more than 30 years. In May, city officials agreed to pay $2.25 million to Ferrell's family to settle the wrongful-death and civil rights lawsuit. Law enforcement experts and legal scholars interviewed by the Observer say discipline issues can create a culture of unnecessary and excessive force within a police agency. “Officers have a tremendous amount of discretion, and if the department isn't holding them accountable, there is no check on that discretion,” said Matt Barge of the Police Assessment Resource Center, which advises police departments.