Goodwin on steps following use of force: ‘What we’re trying to do is bring everyone together’

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin is pushing a message of building bridges in the aftermath of a use of force incident in October.

Goodwin’s remarks during an appearance last Friday on MetroNews “Talkline” followed an announcement about steps the city is taking to address what happened, including referring the incident to the FBI for an independent investigation and a possible citizen advisory council to be a liaison between the police department and public.

“This is not police against community or administration against the police or community,” she said. “Most important, what we’re trying to do is bring everyone together because the community has to understand what the police officers are doing, why they are doing it and why they are doing, and vice versa.”

Goodwin and the police department have faced pressure to enact policy changes since the Oct. 14 incident; Patrol Officer Carlie McCoy and Patrolman Joshua Mena tried to arrest Freda Gilmore outside of the Family Dollar store on the city’s West Side. Video captured Mena punching Gilmore several times in the head.

McCoy and Mena were placed on administrative leave during a police department investigation, which found both officers acted within department policy. Goodwin said on “Talkline” the officers are on duty.

During a forum earlier this month, Goodwin and Charleston Police Chief Opie Smith faced criticism for the current policy as well as a push for change.

Goodwin said there is a nationwide feeling of mistrust toward police officers, which she wants to address at a local level.

“We need to have better communication and open communication,” she said. “If members of the community say that they don’t feel safe and they don’t trust our officers, we need to do a better job.”

Goodwin announced the series of actions on Thursday during a hectic press conference; the city merged its press conference with announcements from councilmembers, police officers, clergy members and the Fraternal Order of Police.

“We really started to recognize none of us are doing a great job with communication. We’re not,” Goodwin said on “Talkline.”

“Community members are upset. They are hurt and they want to be heard.”

Retired Police Officer Eric Smith appeared on “Talkline,” criticizing Goodwin’s reaction as well as the decision to refer the matter to the FBI.

“It’s clear this was a clear use of force. It is clearly within policy, within bounds, and is not a crime,” he said. “The community during the forum demanded an external investigation into the use of force be conducted knowing that these officers committed no crime at all … and that there was not a policy violation.”

The FBI could refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office or the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s Office.