Jeffrey Welty, an associate professor in the UNC School of Government, said despite initial confusion, evidence in the end was clear.
“When the initial narrative was law enforcement shoots an unarmed guy and then several pieces of evidence come together to suggest pretty strongly that he was armed, that makes a big difference, I think, in the outcome,” he said.
Charles Monnett, an attorney representing Scott’s family, said they are disappointed with the decision, and will explore a wrongful death case in civil court, potentially against the city, CMPD and Vinson.
“If you prevail in a civil case you receive monetary damages so it would help them financially, and then I think it would certainly help with their sense that at least partial justice has been done in that the civil justice system recognized that his life was wrongly taken,” Monnett said.
He said Scott’s wife had successfully requested CMPD move the investigation to the State Bureau of Investigation to minimize bias and questioned how effective a self-investigating police department can be.
“Charlotte-Mecklenburg is the only police department in the state that investigates its own officer-involved shootings,” Monnett said.
Welty said the agency an officer belongs to is not in the best position to carry out an unbiased investigation.
“I think bringing in an outside agency is really helpful because then at least you’ve got officers investigating the case who aren’t likely to know personally the officers involved, who aren’t a part of the same agency, who don’t have the same pressures on them,” he said.
He said the same logic applies to the local district attorney, who works with the police department regularly and makes the final decision on prosecution.
“Over the last couple of years there’s been more pressure to bring in a prosecutor from outside and that’s happened in some cases, ” Welty said.
Monnett said Scott’s case will change the way the police department and DA’s office approach these types of cases.
“Half the people are going to think it was the right decision and half the people are going to think it was the wrong decision and you’re never going to make everyone happy,” he said.
The city of Charlotte said in a statement Wednesday it is actively working to preserve safety, trust and accountability.
In a statement released Wednesday, the CMPD outlined changes it is working on to become more transparent, including expanded use of body cameras and releasing body camera footage.
“It will become CMPD’s standard practice to petition the court for the release of video(s) from officer-involved incidents resulting in the death or serious injury of a citizen,” the CMPD said in the statement. “We expect to make the request of the court as soon as the investigation has exhausted the need for the video or the District Attorney has provided his prosecution decision.”
The department said its officers currently receive implicit bias training and has invited The Police Foundation to review the department’s policies, procedures and relationship with the community.