‘Slap in the face’: City settles with current, former officers over CMPD pledge fund

CHARLOTTE — Former and current Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers will split a roughly $2 million settlement reached with the City of Charlotte.

It’s all over a pledge fund. More than a thousand officers said they spent years -- some even decades -- paying into it with a promise they’d get a payment when they retired. But they sued when they never saw that money.

Channel 9’s Hunter Sáenz spoke with a retired officer who said he’s still not happy about the outcome. Officers taking care of their brothers and sisters in blue was a good idea in theory, but when the money dried up, for some of them, so did their patience.

“It’s just not right,” retired detective Keith Way said.

Way is still upset years after his retirement.

“There is no happy ending here. There’s no riding off into the sunset,” he said.

For 30 years, he was part of CMPD’s Volunteer Pledge Fund.

“The mission of the pledge fund was for your brothers and sisters to give you a one-time gift,” he said.

According to court documents, during onboarding, an officer would decide if he or she wanted to join the pledge fund. Over the decades, thousands of officers joined in.

If an officer who was a part of the fund retired or passed away, the other officers who were members of the fund would pay two $5 donations to the retiring officer. Those donations were taken out of an officer’s two consecutive paychecks and that money would go right to the retiring officer or the officer’s family.

Through his three decades on the force, Way said he paid more than $7,000 in donations to retired officers.

In 2017, Way was next in line to receive his one-time retirement gift. He said there were 1,100 members in the pledge fund at the time. His gift should have been roughly $11,000, but it’s money he said he never got.

“I put in my time, I gave up holidays, nights, weekends, I worked through Hurricane Hugo, I worked through snow,” he said. “I did all these things and it was basically a slap in the face.”

“This was something that people put their money in,” Way added. “Where’s my money? That’s the question -- where’s my money?”

According to a class action lawsuit filed against the City of Charlotte, due to the increasing rate of retirements outpacing the amount of money coming into the fund, the “...fund had a substantial and ever increasing financial shortfall and was not sustainable.”

Last month, the city settled for roughly $2 million. After attorneys and other fees, no officer got the amount of money they put in.

The lowest check given to an officer from the settlement was for $1.95 and the highest was $2,826.11. Way said he was given a check for $2,700 -- thousands less than he paid into the fund.

“It’s past insult. It’s almost like a stain on all of our careers,” he said.

“It just goes to show we were basically used for our abilities, then set out to pasture like we were an old mule that couldn’t do the work anymore,” Way said.

Current CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings was a deputy chief in 2019 and was over the pledge fund when it ceased.

In a statement, CMPD said, “Chief Jennings contributed to the Police Pledge Fund through payroll deduction as a new employee from 1992 until the city stopped collecting these funds in 2019. The Chief presented the pledge fund issues to the city manager when he served as a deputy chief. Chief Jennings was unaware that he was a part of the class-action lawsuit, and he was unaware that he was going to receive a settlement check. On Wednesday of last week, the Chief received a check that was sent to his office for $2,500 after paying into the fund for approximately 27 years.”

They did not comment further in regards to the settlement.

Sáenz also reached out to the City of Charlotte. A representative did not get back to him before this article was published.

(WATCH BELOW: Officers bike to Washington D.C. in honor of fallen Shelby police officer)

Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.

Michael Stolp

Michael Stolp, wsoctv.com

Michael is an investigative reporter for Channel 9.