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Charlotte Area

CMPD Names New Chief

David Flower
city of Charlotte
Deputy Chief Johnny Jennings, right, will succeed Kerr Putney, left, as the next Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's next chief has been named.

Deputy Chief Johnny Jennings will take the reins from Kerr Putney in September.  

"I'm excited and ready for this challenge," Jennings said Wednesday, after Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones announced his promotion.

Putney, who's been chief since 2015, announced last year that he would retire after the 2020 Republican National Convention. Initially, Putney planned to leave at the end of 2019 and return in March to run the department during the convention. That plan didn't sit well with the state treasurer, who said Putney couldn't collect retirement if he intended to return to his job.

Both Putney and Jennings were internal candidates for chief – though Jones said the city had about 60 applications "from across the country."

Jennings has been with the department since 1992 and has been a deputy chief since 2016. He's currently in charge of CMPD's Support Services division, which includes community outreach, though he's held various leadership positions across the department.

"He is a man who cares deeply for the men and women who serve, and just as importantly – maybe more importantly – he knows and cares deeply about our community," Jones said.

Putney, who also started at the department in 1992, called Jennings "a humble guy" who has "proven himself in the organization."

Jennings will lead a department of roughly 1,700 officers and 560 other employees that polices an area of 438 square miles.

Jennings will take the top job at a time when Charlotte is struggling with violent crime and the coronavirus pandemic – and less than a month after the RNC.

Last year, there were 107 homicides in CMPD's jurisdiction. This year, there have been 36.

Jennings will also lead a department that's faced criticism in recent years over fatal police shootings, including the 2016 killing of Keith Lamont Scott that sparked protests and the 2019 shooting of Danquirs Franklin. No charges were pressed against officers in those shootings, but they resulted in community calls for change at the department.

"Chief Jennings' background in leading community outreach programs makes him an ideal fit to begin looking at both policing and community engagement and building public trust in our department," Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said. "He's got a lot of work to do, but who doesn't these days?"

Putney said Jennings would take over some day-to-day oversight during a transition period leading up to September. The outgoing chief was mum on his post-retirement plans. 

"I think the best training is on-the-job training, and what we get to do during that transition is I also get to devise my plan when I'm done. I do have some ideas about what I'm going to do," Putney said. "I'm not going to share them. I'll charge you for them when I'm consulting down the road here in a few months, but truthfully, what I'm trying to do is make sure there's a seamless transition."