The Charlotte, North Carolina police department wants to show the public—particularly communities of color—that it has some good, old-fashioned manners. Johnny Jennings, chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, has announced plans to implement good customer service as a type of police reform, according to ABC News. “I want to put something new in the law enforcement profession that is totally outside the box and totally different,” Jennings told the outlet.
As activists and lawmakers continue the fight for policies that will hold police officers accountable, Jennings told ABC that his goal is to find ways to improve the interactions between officers and the public they serve. The idea, he explained, came to him after a positive dining experience at Chick-fil-A. “I started thinking, every time I go there, the voices are so friendly, the food is consistent and I leave there with a positive impression and a good feeling that I was valued as a customer,” Jennings told ABC. “And as I thought about that, I said, ‘Why can’t we duplicate some of that with our interactions with the public, from a police perspective?’”
To get started, Jennings reached out to customer service expert John DiJuluis, who then helped to develop a new training program for officers. According to ABC:
The training, now part of a departmental 12-month curriculum for new and current officers, includes watching videos and placing an emphasis on being more empathetic toward members of the community –and on better ways to de-escalate certain situations.
Chief Jennings hopes that these seemingly small changes will help communities of color feel a greater sense of trust for police officers. “Instead of walking up to the car saying, ‘License and registration,’ they can walk up and, say, ‘Hello, ma’am. I’m Officer Smith. The reason why I pulled you over is …’” DiJuluis explained to ABC.
As ABC reports, Charlotte in recent years has “experienced high-profile shootings of Black men- Danquirs Franklin in 2019 and Keith Lamont Scott in 2016- that resulted in civil lawsuits. Additionally, the police department has faced four separate civil lawsuits stemming from various police-involved shootings.”
Jennings said that police chiefs in other areas are beginning to inquire about his jurisdiction’s new customer service training program because they might want to do the same.
“We don’t control the incident, right? What we can control is the experience that the person that we’re in contact with, has with us,” Jennings told ABC. “And in every effort that we can, we want to leave a positive impression about who we are.”