The strongest structures are supported by well-established pillars. When Johnny Jennings was sworn into the office of CMPD Chief of Police July 1, he had already begun constructing his.
In fact, his pillars have been decades in the making. When he started on the force in 1992, Chief Jennings began building his understanding of the Charlotte community and policing. Brick by brick, position by position, he rose through the ranks, compiling an impressive base of knowledge along the way. He oversaw units focusing on investigation, criminal intelligence, special operations and professional accountability, all contributing to the foundation he’d lay for his vision of CMPD.
But it wasn’t just Jennings’ own vision he was building. In the weeks and months leading up to his taking the office of chief, community members in Charlotte and around the nation made their voices heard.
“With the Black Lives Matter movement and other movements looking for change within police agencies and the concept of policing, I was excited to be part of it because history is being made,” Jennings says. “I looked at what we’re seeing in the community today and, with everything that’s going on, I wanted to make sure my vision and core values are put in place to make our department better.”
Between his decades of experience in Charlotte, expertise and training in policing and a focus on the will of the community, Jennings’ four pillars rose into his Core Four and a strategic direction for the department, including a mission and vision:
CMPD implements solutions and expands collaborative relationships within our organization and community to enhance trust, fairness and respect, to increase public safety.
We envision becoming the trusted, respected and sought-after community partner by serving our citizens and taking care of our employees.
CORE VALUE: COMMUNITY COLLABORATION
Community Collaboration is a process of participation by people, groups and organizations working together to achieve results. Each member must be willing to plan and share vision, mission, power, resources and most importantly, goals. Collaboration builds trust, ensures accountability and defines success.
The voice of the community didn’t just inform the strategic direction, but became its own core value within Jennings’ vision for CMPD.
“I tell people all the time that we are given authority as police officers by the people and the people should have some say in how we police,” Jennings said. “If we’re going to get anywhere, we have to work together. We’re not always going to agree when we have conversations with public officials and community members, but what we can do is make sure we’re sitting at the table. And, once we’re sitting at the table, we get a better understanding of each other and that’s going to go a long way toward progress.”
CORE VALUE: CRIME MANAGEMENT
Crime Management is how we work to prevent crime from occurring. It is partnering at each level of the criminal process to analyze crime and find alternative outcomes for those affected.
When Jennings thinks about the concept of crime management, he thinks about the options CMPD has outside of over-policing high-crime areas. Rather than focusing on discretionary arrests, Jennings says, it’s important to key in on the violent issues neighborhoods and communities are dealing with.
“It isn’t necessarily about taking officers off the streets, but it’s about considering the benefit of everything we do and asking ourselves if it’s of benefit to the community,” Jennings says.
CORE VALUE: PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY
Professional Accountability is an internally driven mindset to improve ourselves and the relations & outcomes we have with those we serve. As an agency we are transparent about corrective action and responsive to our community about how we police ourselves.
Officers on the streets need to be doing good work in the right places, Jennings says. That comes down to personal and professional accountability. Part of CMPD’s role in enabling that good work is opening the door for officers to appropriately handle all scenarios.
“When an officer sees another employee escalating a situation or sees things might not be going as planned, they should be able to step in without any repercussions, say, ‘hey I got this, I can handle it,’ before it intensifies.”
CORE VALUE: EMPLOYEE WELLNESS
Employee Wellness is focused on supporting better mental and physical health at work for all employees. These efforts include physical and mental fitness programs, education and incentives, interventions for and improved access to care and social support for our employees.
There’s no question about it, Jennings says. Officers work hard. Long hours take a toll as does the nature of the work. While he sees a rapport of support between fellow officers and high morale, Jennings knows when a shift is over and officers head home, they start to wind down from the day. “What’s that next level of emotion?” Jennings wonders. He wants officers to know CMPD cares about their mental well-being.
“Officers have a tendency to bottle things up,” Jennings says. “When I was a young officer, needing help and needing to talk about things was seen as a sign of weakness. That’s not the case anymore and I want to continue making it the norm.”
Of all the things Chief Jennings has learned throughout his career with CMPD, he’s proud to be part of an organization that embraces changes and is constantly striving to grow and become better. Implementing his strategic vision is just another way to enhance that spirit of continuous improvement.
“You talk to the officers and rather than resisting change, they say they’re ready for it,” Jennings says. “They’re ready to say, ‘where does this next era of policing take us?’ They’re looking forward to that. I truly believe this is one of, if not the, best police departments in the country and we’re at the forefront of a lot of things. You can stamp your name on when policing changed in Charlotte and know you were a part of it.”
Join Chief Jennings’ vision by becoming a CMPD officer. Whether you’re new to law enforcement or transferring from another department, stamp your name on the changing face of policing.