CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings discusses low bonds in exclusive interview

“We’re not keeping our community safe by letting these repeat violent offenders out,” the chief said.
CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings spoke one-on-one about bonds and a push to keep violent offenders from easily getting back on the streets.
Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 6:01 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Citizens and authorities in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County alike have made it clear they are upset with the fact that many violent criminals are allowed back onto the streets in what they deem as far too soon.

In an exclusive interview with WBTV, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) Chief Johnny Jennings sat down to discuss those issues, which he said are in part due to criminals being released on low bonds.

“It’s astonishing to me,” he said, speaking on violent criminals being put back into society, sometimes without appearing before a judge.

Jennings, along with the District Attorney, are pushing to change that process, hoping to make it more difficult for criminals to get out of jail.

“We’re starting to see that being vocal can make some changes, can make things happen,” Jennings said. “You look at what we’ve gone through in the last two years, and all the police reform and all the things we’ve done to change how we actually do policing, we have to be able to do that throughout the criminal justice system.”

The former CMPD chief agrees.

Jennings said he would like to see more uniformity across the way bonds are handled, and less of what he called ‘arbitrary bonds.’

CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings sat down with WBTV's Molly Grantham to discuss low bonds and the hope for a more uniform process.

“When you start seeing the bonds so out there, so much differentiation, between bonds, it kind of tells me that maybe the guidelines aren’t tight enough,” he said.

He said that this goes not only for bonds that are set seemingly too low, but also for crimes that are perceived as less serious that have seemingly high bonds.

On Monday he had a meeting with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein to discuss the matter. Other police chiefs from across the state also attended the meeting.

“I think legislation is going to have to be a part of it,” Jennings said, regarding the consistency of the bond process. “I think we’re going to have to really look at how are magistrates managed, how we are able to, how they are able to look at setting bonds, and what is their discretion at setting those bonds?”

“We’re not keeping our community safe by letting these repeat violent offenders out,” the chief said.

Perhaps one of the more notable instances where a violent criminal was recently given a low bond was when Toddrick McFadden fired a shot that injured an officer in the NoDa neighborhood last month.

McFadden had been firing shots into a bar and outside of it and hit an officer in the leg. McFadden was charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer with a firearm, and one count of discharging a firearm into occupied property.

In total, his bond was set at $170,000, something Jennings referred to as ‘absolutely unacceptable.’

Are low bonds for violent offenders directly hurting innocent people in our community? We're joined exclusively tonight with CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings.

As for how it affects officers seeing violent criminals back on the street, and even re-arresting them, Jennings said it was frustrating.

“When you hear that we put hours of work into locating a violent criminal only to find out that that criminal was given an unsecured bond or released right back into the community, then that morale, as an officer, you’re like what are we doing this for, why is all of this effort going into it?”

“We have to keep the right people in jail, or keep the right people at a level of bond that they are not simply turning this into a revolving door and going back out in the streets and committing the same acts they were arrested for in the first place.”

The chief said the frustration has gone on for years, if only internally, but said that now is the time to be vocal about the issues.

Jennings urged citizens who want to be a part of the change to write to local and state governments, or even to CMPD directly.

“If the public is saying that this is something that is important to them, then I think they need to make that known and to be able to contact the people who are able to make those changes and make those differences.”

WBTV’s Molly Grantham sat down with Jennings for an extended one-on-one interview, which you can listen to above.

Related: Police chief, Mecklenburg Co. DA say change is needed in how bonds are set for violent offenders

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