CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte Mecklenburg Police has 30 new officers and some lateral transfers to add to the department’s roster.
The department’s 181st Recruit Class, which started in October, graduated Friday morning after 900 hours of training, 35 exams and a final 4-hour exam.
Chief Kerr Putney said the new officers should remember the day.
“This emotion of being excited about a profession they’re going to embark on. You got to maintain that,” said Chief Putney. “You gotta know that there are some dark days ahead but also you take strength in the fact a family is behind them.”
Officer Glen Campbell is one of the new lateral transfers – who after 13 years in Lancaster, S.C. decided to join CMPD.
“Here at CMPD there are a lot of different opportunities. You have a huge bike squad. You have a lot of dual sports,” said Officer Campbell. “You have a wide variety of different detective areas. You have so many different opportunities that you can go to and try out.”
But he knows the streets in Charlotte are not the same as Lancaster.
“It is very real especially in this day and age and I think what we’re doing as laterals - what we bring to the table is past experience and we can communicate with people, compared to recruits that are straight out of the academy and I think that helps a lot especially with the community engagement,” said Campbell. “Whenever we speak to them usually we can try to diffuse situations or address situations before they become serious issues.”
The new officers are starting just as violent crime increased by 11% during the first quarter of this year, compared to the same time in 2018.
“The 90’s weren’t very pleasant either. It was kind of contentious here. I think the second or third year employed here we had our highest homicide rate. It was during the crack epidemic locally and across the country as well. And we approached things differently,” said Chief Putney. “Now to us community policing is a philosophy. We were just sticking our toe in the water then and now it’s all about engagement with our community. Hearing what they expect of us and meeting that standard so philosophically we’ve totally changed and practically we’ve had to change something as well.”
Yessica Rodriguez is one of the new officers.
She decided policing is for her - after four years of working in CMPD’s Communications Office answering 911 calls.
“The 911 call for service could last two minutes, a minute, five minutes - it just ranges. But then after you just click end call - that’s it. That’s all I could for them. I felt disconnected,” she said. “I wished I could do more, especially when it comes with cases that involved kids or elderly. I just wished I could do more than just take the initial call for service.”
Nicholas Iacoves also pinned on his badge Friday morning. He says life in marines prepared him to be a good officer.
“A lot of objectives when we were overseas was dealing with the hearts and minds of people – so it was critical to the diplomatic success across the world for us to be able to talk to people” said Officer Iacoves.
And as a newly minted officer, Frederick Wilds is starting over.
“I was in security for about 15 years. So starting over at 42 years old was a big adjustment,” he said.” Coming in and not being the youngest person in the class. I was not the oldest in class. It was different. It was different. It was mentally and a little physically challenging for me.”
Officer Wilds says he understands he’s entering a new world.
“It’s a big change from security to law enforcement. Security – you’re limited on what you can do. Once you get in law enforcement you can actually take somebody’s freedom away from them so you have to be very mindful – do I have what it takes to take the freedom from this individual. Do I have just cause? Going from telling somebody hey get off my property to now where I may have to put hands on somebody and arrest an individual is like night and day” said Officer Wilds.
Chief Putney says he hopes the new officers get a balance that was missing when he first started policing in Charlotte.
“I got to see working night shift our community at its worst. We saw people hurting. We saw people emotional but we didn’t get to see the balance that we see where we come into a community forum and there’s a lot of engagement,” said Chief Putney. “Even the contentious one two Thursdays ago - what didn’t get shown a lot is out of 316 people - about 310 of them really appreciated the opportunity to have that conversation. About a dozen or so committed to helping us move forward as ambassadors so there’s a lot of success. We gotta be able to have that balance because it’s easy to just focus on the negative.”
The department has a shortage of officers – in part - because of retirements and resignation. Putney knows CMPD has to figure out how to keep the new officers and not have them leave for other jobs.
“We have a battery of initiatives we’re just launching. The residency initiative – giving them $2500 for living in city limits. Take him car program – we continue to roll out more and more cars. Council and Mayor have increased the pay. They’re looking at another round of what that might look like in the new fiscal year. We’re doing everything we can” said Chief Putney.