CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department swore in its new chief Wednesday morning -- Deputy Chief Johnny Jennings will take over for retiring Chief Kerr Putney.
Jennings is taking over during a time when the department is seeing a spike in violent crime across Charlotte.
Jennings was sworn in at 10 a.m. and will oversee more than 1,700 officers at CMPD. He served on the force for 28 years and said he hears the cries for change.
Putney and Mayor Vi Lyles were on hand, as were Jennings’ wife, children and mother. Jennings was sworn in by Lyles and replaces Putney, who retired concurrently with Jennings’ swearing-in.
“The person leading CMPD has always been one of the most important roles in our community and that is truer today than ever before,” Lyles said. “Chief Jennings is an excellent communicator and has a talent for building relationships. I can’t think of two more important traits for our next police chief and I’m excited for our community to have a man like Chief Jennings leading CMPD.”
After taking his oath, Jennings said the four core values of his administration will be professional accountability, community collaboration, crime management and employee wellness.
“It is important that as a police department we adopt a customer service mentality and instill that mentality throughout the department,” Jennings said. “The community provides the CMPD with the authority to police. We are never going to move the needle and build community relations until we recognize how the community wants to be policed. That will require all of us, every single one of us coming together to make this community safer and the CMPD a better department.”
Jennings will place a heavy priority on violent crime prevention and reduction through initiatives and partnerships in both the criminal justice system and the private sector, as well as examining alternative solutions to discretionary arrests of lower-level offenses.
“Clearly, we cannot always arrest our way out of situations,” said Jennings.
In an interview with Channel 9 last week, he told us he is committed to work with the community, which could be a welcome partnership.
Team True Blue has been working to curb violence in the community, especially after a tough stretch along Beatties Ford Road with multiple shootings and murders including two in the last 24 hours.
The most recent victim was just 14 years old, shot and killed Tuesday night. Another four people died when a peaceful block party last week turned into a shooting.
Police have not made any arrests in any of the cases.
Will Adams with Team True Blue said he is disappointed with the recent crime, but understands it requires patience to see change.
“All we can continue to do is continue to show love and support back into our community,” Adams said. “We have to put hope back into our community.”
The change at the department also comes when many are calling for police reform. The new police chief said he is open to the idea and is asking for people to stay engaged in the process.
“Since we announced the Chief Jennings would be our next Chief, I’ve heard from many people across the Charlotte community and the law enforcement community praising his work and character,” City Manager Marcus D. Jones. “The events of the past several weeks have only reinforced my belief that Chief Jennings is the right person to lead CMPD. He is a progressive, community-focused leader and I’m looking forward to working with him for a long time.”
Jennings emphasized that CMPD employee health and wellness will also be a top priority.
“Sadly, what often gets overshadowed in policing is the human side of the profession. It’s sometimes easy to forget that there are men and women who are serving this community in our department, both sworn and civilian,” Jennings said. “Fair to say, that it has never been more challenging time for them to serve in law enforcement than this current time.”
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