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Charlotte spent millions for pay raises, but chief says CMPD still can’t fill openings

CMPD chief announces new mental health plan

Kerr Putney, CMPD chief, announced the formation of six teams that pair CMPD officers trained in crisis intervention and mental health clinicians from CriSys to provide assistance on a 24/7 basis.
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Kerr Putney, CMPD chief, announced the formation of six teams that pair CMPD officers trained in crisis intervention and mental health clinicians from CriSys to provide assistance on a 24/7 basis.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said Wednesday that his department is struggling to recruit new officers despite the millions of dollars the city has put toward hiring and pay raises.

Speaking at a luncheon for the Hood Hargett Breakfast Club, Putney told the crowd a strong economy has hampered CMPD’s ability to attract new officers.

“We had a boatload of people coming in to this work” in 2008 in the midst of the Great Recession, Putney said.

Putney said that negative publicity surrounding police work has also contributed to the problem.

The comments come after Charlotte City Council has made moves in recent years to boost police recruiting.

In 2016, the City Council gave the department nearly $6 million, enough to hire 125 new officers.

But CMPD hasn’t filled any of the jobs because the department couldn’t replace all of the people who were resigning or retiring, according to an Observer report in March.

Last year, city officials put roughly $12 million in the budget for police pay raises. Putney sought the pay increases to help fill 174 vacancies in the 1,800-person department.

At the time, Putney told city leaders that applications for CMPD jobs were down 20 percent in 2016 and 2017.

Putney’s comments Wednesday echo those from some researchers who study law enforcement.

They say police departments across the country are having trouble recruiting officers, leaving hundreds of vacant positions in some agencies.

Negative publicity following police shootings have repelled some would-be applicants from taking police jobs, they said.

In Charlotte, some researchers said, officers can seek higher paying, less dangerous work in corporate security instead of policing.

Unlike in some recent public appearances, Putney spoke to a friendly audience at a SouthPark restaurant Wednesday.

Putney said most people have a positive view of the department, but acknowledged that negative publicity surrounding policing overall has impacted officer recruitment.

He didn’t specifically mention public reaction to videos showing officers killing African-Americans. But his remarks came just weeks after CMPD faced protests and harsh criticism for the fatal shooting of Danquirs Franklin, who was black, at a west Charlotte Burger King.

Prosecutors will decide whether Officer Wende Kerl was legally justified when she shot Franklin on March 25.

“It is a very contentious environment” for police, Putney said.

He added that “people who should know better” have criticized police unnecessarily.

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