CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department added nearly 30 new recruits to its force Friday morning.
The department has been so short staffed that some officers are still coming into work when they are sick.
CMPD is hoping the fresh recruits, and a new, unique partnership will reinforce their thin ranks.
Timothy Ellerbe, a barber school student, said he spent Friday morning watching the police class graduate.
He attended the event for a young officer named Justin Cawley.
They are the first two people to go through "Cops and Barbers" program, which will pair a lot more people like them, black barbers and white cops, so when volatile situations flare up, they can work together to calm tensions.
"I believe not all policemen are what they're portrayed on TV or what I see on social media,” Ellerbe said.
"Getting introduced to the program influenced my standpoint and viewpoint on so many things,” Cawley said.
CMPD hopes to form dozens of similar partnerships in the future because they need the support.
The department is short 200 officers and they keep losing them faster than they can hire them.
"We have to make sure that our pay and benefits are on par," CMPD Capt. Dave Johnson said.
In a Channel 9 investigation in March, Channel 9 discovered CMPD has spent more than $40,000 on recruitment trips and advertising since 2016.
While they're constantly looking for more officers in other cities, they're also looking to their neighbors here for help.
"As a community, if we can understand each other, then we can better understand how to deal with situations that might scare us," Ellerbe said.
Officers on the street will need all the help they can get from their partners in the community because CMPD's next recruitment class starts in June, so it could be another year before any more new recruits are ready for their patrols.
"Cops and Barbers" will hold a fundraiser from 6:45 p.m. to 9 p.m. May 2 to raise money to send 10 more students through barber school.
Channel 9 has supported the effort from the beginning and Channel 9’s Erica Bryant will emcee the event.
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