A recent ad campaign celebrating “homegrown heroes” features Pearsall and other CMPD officers on Charlotte buses and light rail trains.
Growing up the daughter of a preacher in Charlotte’s Greenville community, service was an expectation in Deputy Chief Sherie Pearsall’s family. She saw her mother give of herself unselfishly and sought to model the same morals in her own life’s work.
After 27 years with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD), Pearsall knows becoming a police officer was the choice and one that fulfilled those familial and personal responsibilities engrained in her at an early age. But after graduating from college, that wasn’t at all her vision for the future.
The eldest of five children and an East Mecklenburg High School Eagle, Pearsall became the first in her immediate family to graduate from college and she did so with honors. With her history degree from Livingstone College, she planned to become an attorney, but money was tight. Academic and athletic scholarships took her to college, but now she was back in Charlotte to begin the tough work of putting herself through law school.
SERVING SOMETHING GREATER
Seeing youth become college graduates was a point of celebration for the Greenville community. While at a graduation program hosted by the community, Pearsall was approached by the Charlie One District captain who began questioning her about plans for the future. At the time, law enforcement was not a career option she’d considered.
“I’d never interacted with the police before,” Pearsall says. “We feared our mother more than the police so we didn’t get in trouble. But in the communities I grew up in, there were a lot of challenged areas and not good community/police relationships.”
She did have a great rapport with her school resource officers, both role models who provided a vision of what was possible and who treated her like one of their own children. Between that connection, more conversations with the captain and growing frustration over her dead-end job, she decided CMPD might be the five-year plan she was looking for. She’d invest a few years, then move on to her career as an attorney — but she never did. The impact she was looking to make ended up being right where she was as an officer.
“What we do, it’s beyond law enforcement,” Pearsall says. “You have an opportunity to impact people on the worst day of their lives and your goal is to make sure they come out better on the other side. I have a heart for people, a spirit for people, and with CMPD, it became an opportunity to serve something greater than myself.”
A COMMUNITY RESPONSIBILITY
The Greenville community was so proud to see one of their own become a CMPD officer that they bought a young Pearsall her first police vest. The community’s faith in her, while deeply meaningful, was actually an added burden, she says, because she never wanted to disappoint or fall short of their high expectations.
Throughout her career, Pearsall has sought to find balance within the department to assure the culture and work of CMPD meet the needs of the community it serves. And it turns out that Greenville’s expectations of what she could achieve were well placed.
Six years later, she was promoted to sergeant. With her shiny new insignia, she nervously walked into her first roll call when she spotted a familiar face — one of the school resource officers she’d admired years before.
“I used to chase you around Randolph Junior High School and now you’re my supervisor,” he joked.
Clearly, he and the new role had more to teach Pearsall; she was ready to take it in. CMPD presents no lack of opportunity to learn, grow and have an impact, she says. Today, she finds the opportunity to serve is greater than ever. As Deputy Chief of the Administrative Services Group, she oversees the Recruitment and Training Bureau, the Communications Bureau and the Administrative Services Bureau.
“The greater the leadership role, the greater the responsibility to serve,” Pearsall says. “Getting promoted is not about you, it’s more about your people. I advocate for them and work to meet their needs so they can meet the needs of the community.”
Today, the responsibility to the community that Pearsall feels is even greater as her roots in Charlotte have grown deeper.
“I raised a son here, and now I’m a grandmother, so my grandchildren are growing up in this community. My interest is well beyond the police department. The success of this place and the importance of CMPD in Charlotte means a lot.”
FINDING YOUR “WHY”
In her role as Deputy Chief of Administrative Services, Pearsall’s responsibility is to the officers whose shoes she once stood in, including overseeing the CMPD Academy where new officers come to begin their careers, and tenured officers continue their education.
Within Chief Johnny Jennings’ strategic direction for the department, he has laid out four core values. Pearsall is the executive sponsor of the Employee Wellness pillar, ensuring that officers have the resources they need to care for their own well-being within a challenging job.
No matter the demands of the job or the day, Pearsall encourages others and herself to take a step back and look at the reasons they became a police officer in the first place.
“I always go back to my why,” she says. “When you ask the question, “Why?” you see the answer all around you. The kids on the basketball court. The seniors you have tea with on their porch while you’re on patrol. The calls for service where you have the opportunity to change the outcome. It brings it all back into perspective and you can focus on the fact that you came here to serve the greater good.”