Charlotte City Council nearly votes to deny ammunition purchase for law enforcement
At a Charlotte City Council meeting held on Feb. 27, an unusual turn of events occurred, as a routine measure to approve an ammunition purchase for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) nearly did not pass.
As previously reported, the initial vote for the purchases only garnered four yes votes out of the 11 council members present. The vote passed on the second attempt 6-1.
In an email statement to Carolina Journal, Councilman Tariq Bokhari, who was instrumental in securing the votes to approve the item, explained how the vote came about in the first place and the consequences that would have resulted had it not passed. The measure was part of the council’s larger consent agenda for the meeting.
“Most municipal bodies have a consent agenda — basically a list of specific purchases we already anticipated needing during the annual budget cycle, but that when it comes time to spend the money later in the year a certain threshold is triggered and we need to authorize it,” Bokhari said. “Historically, these are items we approve all at one time, and aside from reading through and occasionally making a comment, don’t spend time on.
“That was until the last couple years, when items started being pulled out by several of the Democrats for separate votes,” Bokhari added. “They have used these as opportunities in many cases to beat up on staff and attempt to get some press coverage by seemingly being the champion for or against something. It usually just ends up being a waste of everyone’s time, but occasionally it can have dangerous impacts. Much like what happened last week.”
According to Bokhari, Councilman Braxton Winston put the item up for a stand-alone vote.
“Mayor Pro Tem Braxton Winston pulled the consent item on buying the police ammunition for a separate vote,” Bokhari said. “I was personally preparing for the more controversial items coming up later that night in the policy and business agenda. I quickly glanced at what the item was he pulled just as the voting started, and I saw it was police ammunition just as I glanced around the room and saw only 4 yes votes were cast, short of the 6 needed to pass anything,” he said. “In a bit of shock, I turned on my mic and asked in disbelief if this was what we were going to do? As I collected myself, I took a second to explain to my colleagues that this was a state-wide requirement for them to complete firearm training — and emphasized this is the type of training that the council wants them to be doing more of.”
Bokhari said they were “lucky” to get the six votes needed, and Winston ultimately refused to vote for the ammunition.
“This is a protest position that MPT Winston has taken in the past,” Bokhari said. “We appeared later in the week together on Capital Tonight, where Winston provided loose responses to motivation questions including ‘we should be spending more money on de-escalation’ and ‘teachers have to buy their own supplies.'”
Bokhari emphasized the importance of making routine purchases like the police ammunition item at issue, as it is vital for use by the police to be effectively trained and do their job. In Charlotte, this item is especially important given the rise in crime year over year in the queen city. Earlier this year, the CMPD released its 2022 End-of-Year Report which revealed that overall crimes increased by 3%, with property crime up 6%. It was also noted that violent crimes showed a decrease of 5%. According to the report, the homicide clearance rate in Charlotte is 75.7%, which is higher than the national average of 61%.
“If that vote had failed, we probably would have just been made fun of by the media, potentially garnering even national recognition for stupidity,” Bokhari said. “But that has happened many times before, and to be honest, I’m not sure people would have been that surprised. The real impact is far more devastating, and it has the best of our communities asking the question: ‘Is it even worth it to keep doing this job?’”
Bokhari was grateful that the item passed on the final vote but said that the initial vote was part of a pattern from the council in showing a lack of support for the police.
“So, while we dodged the bullet on this vote, the damage was still done,” he said. “It’s the same damage we’ve been inflicting on the morale of the police department for the last three years. Showing through our words and actions that they don’t have top-down support. Villainizing them and throwing them under the bus at the exact moments they need us most. That is why retention and recruitment rates are at massive lows. What makes this even worse, if that’s possible, is the fact that Charlotte is experiencing significant volumes of violent crimes. Home break ins, murders, and in the same week as this vote a third shooting at a mall that forced an Apple Store to announce they were closing doors for safety. There are a lot of reasons for why this crime is occurring, but I am completely convinced it is driven by the tone we set here in Charlotte.”
CJ reached out to council members Winston and Victoria Watlington, but did not receive comment in time for publication. CJ also reached out to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department but did not receive comment in time for publication.