CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's practice of relocating up to 80 on-duty patrol officers from other parts of the city to work traffic and security at Carolina Panthers' games and other large Bank of America Stadium events is uncommon in most other NFL cities, a WCNC Charlotte investigation found.
Following WCNC Charlotte's extensive reporting, Chief Johnny Jennings is now publicly saying a Bank of America Stadium pay increase might be part of the solution.
The Fraternal Order of Police continues to say the problem originates with the $42 per hour pay rate the stadium is offering off-duty officers to work on their time off. That's the minimum allowed.
While, in most cases, that money is better than what they make in their day job, FOP Vice President Daniel Redford said it's not nearly as competitive as the off-duty market.
"The pay is just not enough," Redford said. "What we're doing is asking for the department and Bank of America Stadium staff to come up with some agreement to increase the pay, so that it's encouraging officers to sign up for it on their own."
Redford said that lack of incentive is why police are turning down the extra work. In response, the already short-staffed CMPD has diverted limited on-duty resources from other parts of Charlotte to help the private business, which is run by the wealthiest owner in the NFL.
The FOP has said that decision has resulted in understaffed patrol divisions on game days, overworked police, and less police protection for the rest of the city.
"At what point do you as the chief sit there and put your foot down and say, 'Listen Panthers or whoever, enough is enough?'" police asked Chief Jennings during a recent taped question and answer session.
"I think right now we're at the point of we're there where we need to say something has to be done," the chief replied.
Amid WCNC Charlotte's reporting, the chief has pledged the City of Charlotte is working on a long-term solution, in part, studying how other cities handle large events. Most other cities operate differently.
Of the 25 law enforcement agencies and/or NFL teams that responded to WCNC Charlotte's questions, 13 said on-duty police do not work in any capacity at NFL games. Several others said the only time they do is to work traffic outside of the stadium; usually, that's because there's a mix of private security and off-duty officers inside. Nashville, Denver, and Las Vegas said their home teams reimburse off-duty officers at a rate of time-and-a-half.
WCNC Charlotte shared its findings with Bank of America Stadium. A spokesperson referred questions to CMPD.
The agency continues to say stadium staffing decisions are not slowing down response times on average. CMPD backed up that conclusion with data for the top three highest-priority calls.
During the FOP's recent meeting with the chief, Chief Jennings said his goal remains "to not have to pull officers off the streets to fill off-duty jobs." He said the city's trying to work with the stadium on a solution, considering everything from relying on civilians to handle some traffic duties to raising pay for the largest events.
"I think at this point we're headed into a pay increase for special events that require a certain number of officers," the chief said.
Redford said CMPD has reassigned him to work stadium detail while on duty in recent weeks. He said he's also offered to work an upcoming game on his time off for the flat $42 an hour as part of an effort to show good faith.
"We're always open to sit down with the chief, the Panthers, whoever comes out to us," he said. "Obviously, we want to be part of the solution."
In a statement, the City of Charlotte pledged a long-term solution is in the works.
"The City of Charlotte and Tepper Sports are continuing to discuss the challenges we all face and are committed to finding the best solution to ensure the safety and security of fans as well as the safety and security of our residents across the city," the city said. "We are working on developing a comprehensive approach that addresses the needs of not just NFL games, but a wide range of events that take place throughout Charlotte. While we don't anticipate any major changes before the end of the current NFL season, we are making progress on a long-term solution that meets the needs of fans, residents, and our public safety staff."
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