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For Officer Training, CMPD Turns To Unconventional Consultant

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police have hired a private-sector consultant to help train its 1,800 officers in customer service.
The DiJulius Group
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police have hired a private-sector consultant to help train its 1,800 officers in customer service.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has hired a consultant that usually works in the private sector to train its 1,800 officers in an unusual customer service program.

CMPD hired The DiJulius Group for $60,000 to create an online curriculum as well as in-person training. The Cleveland, Ohio-based company has never worked with a police department before. Its experience is with private companies such as Starbucks, The Ritz-Carlton and Lexus.

Company president John DiJulius said CMPD chief Johnny Jennings called him a year ago, soon after Jennings was promoted to the top job in the department. That was in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests in Charlotte and across the nation.

“He wanted someone with a totally fresh perspective that would come in with the private sector and see how that could work in policing,” DiJulius said.

CMPD is calling the program its “CommUNITY Collaboration customer experience training and curriculum.

CMPD had about 515,000 encounters with citizens last year. Only a small fraction involved violent crime.

The idea behind the training is to try and ensure that ordinary encounters don’t become confrontational. DiJulius says part of the training will help officers deal with what he calls “empathy fatigue” — in that they might go from something serious like an assault to something more minor, like stolen property.

“(A minor problem) pales in comparison, but you still have to deliver that similar type of presence,” he said. “(You need to know) that it’s the worst thing that’s happening in his day, even though it may pale in comparison to what your last interaction was.”

The Fraternal Order of Police in Charlotte has questioned the very idea of hiring a private-sector customer consultant. Earlier this year it said it fears DiJulius will push for changes that are “not concurrent with the law, putting officers and the community at risk.”

FOP added that in policing, the “customer is not always right.”

Jennings said Thursday he is listening to the FOP’s concerns and said he’s made some changes to the language used in the training.

“Because when you hear customer service you do think of, ‘Well we’re not selling hamburgers or we’re not selling chicken sandwiches,’ ” Jennings said.

CMPD said it will take a year to finish the training.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.