CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief will retire by the end of the year, prompting a change in leadership for the department in charge of protecting nearly 870,000 people.
City officials said Chief Kerr Putney will officially retire on Jan. 1, 2020, but is expected to return in March as chief to help work through the Republican National Convention when it comes to Charlotte next summer.
“It is humbling to come to the last chapter, the last year of my service here,” Putney said.
“Chief Putney made a commitment to Charlotte to lead our security efforts during the RNC and I know that is important to him,” city manager Marcus Jones said. “Because of his experience with the city’s efforts for the DNC in 2012 and his involvement with the current RNC planning, I want him to return and believe this approach gives us the best opportunity to host a more successful RNC for our residents, business community and visitors while also helping Chief Putney meet his personal commitments.”
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Mayor Vi Lyles told Channel 9's Joe Bruno Putney is retiring to spend more time with family and that his legacy will be the relationships he built with the community.
“But I also think you can be tired as a police chief, and I think all of us recognize that,” Lyles said. “And when he says it is important for him to take a break and be with his family, I believe that.”
By law, Putney will not be able to work more than 1,000 hours for the city when he returns in 2020, sources told Channel 9.
Jones will appoint an interim chief to serve until Putney returns for the RNC. Sources told Channel 9 an internal candidate is to be named the interim chief, however, no one has been decided on just yet.
Officials said Putney will step down from his role after the RNC, and then a permanent replacement will be named.
One of the chief's strongest supporters on the council has been Councilman Tariq Bokhari, R-District 6.
“I hope the city takes a second in the midst of a lot of challenging times we are going through to recognize what a great career this leader has had and the impact he has made on Charlotte,” Bokhari said.
In his five years as chief, Putney has put a lot of emphasis on reaching out to the community with programs aimed to bridge the differences and build trust in police.
Eddie Catlin owns a barbershop on Sharon Amity Road. He said two of his brothers were murdered, and he has been attacked, but he gives a lot of credit to police and Chief Putney for staying engaged with the community and making a difference with programs like "Cops and Barbers."
"We are a lot better 'cause you hear sirens right now. They're going off, and they're on the way to go take care of somebody, so we are a lot better, we are," Catlin said.
His tenure has not always been positive with riots three years ago after a police officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, exposing tensions between police and many in the African American community.
Crime has also edged up in three of the last five years, with homicides up in four of those years and more than doubling in the first six months of 2019.
West Charlotte resident Gwen Johnson said she runs an afterschool program and has been trying to clean up the community off Tuckaseegee Road for years.
She said she has had trouble getting officers out to the area for the last five years and that starts with the chief.
"We know who's going to work with us and who isn't because this chief we have now, I haven't seen him since I've been doing this," Johnson said.
Putney was hired by CMPD as a patrol officer in 1992, was promoted to deputy chief in 2007 and named police chief in June 2015.
He earned a bachelor of science degree in criminology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a master's degree in criminology from East Carolina University.
Sources also told Channel 9's crime reporter Glenn Counts that some of the most valuable members of Putney's team could retire before the RNC as well.
CMPD UPPER MANAGEMENT:
- Assistant Chief Doug Gallant -- oversees patrol and investigations
- Assistant Chief Vickie Foster -- oversees administrative support and human resources
- Deputy Chief Jeff Estes
- Deputy Chief Johnny Jennings
Jennings and Estes supervised special events, airport security, school resource officers and community services.
Some or all of them could come back to help out as "hire backs" in a role similar to the one Putney will assume during the 2020 RNC. They worked through the Democratic National Convention and helped make the convention a success, so they know what to expect.
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