CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) is launching a new customer experience training program for its officers, and it all started with a visit to Chick-fil-A by CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings.
The new initiative is called CommUNITY Collaboration customer experience training. According to CMPD, it is the first law enforcement agency in the country to launch a formalized customer experience program with training and curriculum.
Jennings said he recognized the anger the public had toward police following the social justice movement spurred by the death of George Floyd and sought out solutions.
That solution came in the form of a meal at Chick-fil-A, said Jennings.
"I said, you know, every time I come here, the employees are friendly,” said Jennings. “The food is consistent. I feel valued as a customer. I leave with a good feeling. And I thought, why can't police duplicate some of that?"
CMPD and the DiJulius Group, a customer service training and consultancy out of Cleveland, Ohio, began a partnership in fall 2020.
John DiJulius, the chief revolution officer and president, has previously worked with companies such as Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, The Ritz-Carlton, and more to develop their customer experience.
DiJulius said CMPD’s program is the first time he’s applied the concepts to law enforcement, showing how officers can change the experience of even a traffic stop.
"Instead of coming up and saying license and registration—‘Ma'am, miss, the reason why I pulled you over today is____, and then, may I have your license and registration?’” said DiJulius in demonstrating the difference in training.
Jennings said he realizes some people may be doubters of the new training.
"I understand that people think, well we're not serving chicken sandwiches or we're not serving fries, and that's not the point,” said Jennings. “I think the whole idea and the concept is the positive impression that you had, that you have when you leave there."
Police will still enforce the law, but they will do it with more compassion and empathy at the forefront.
"This whole concept now is to be intentional and focused on it and to have it embedded in everything we do within our agency,” said Jennings.
Heal Charlotte was formed following the protests and death of Keith Lamont Scott, trying to bridge communication between citizens and their city.
Since then, it helped to train officers for CMPD’s Constructive Conversation Team, which were seen on the streets trying to de-escalate situations in the protests in the summer of 2020.
Greg Jackson, the founder and executive director of Heal Charlotte, said the new training is innovative.
"We need to get to the root cause of stuff, but this is a step in the right direction,” said Jackson. “We can't say that it's not."
Jackson said it’s easy to implement customer service in the food industry, but it may be more challenging for police to keep the consistent approach in tense situations.
“It’s definitely something that needs to go through the whole department,” said Jackson. “Humanizing yourself beyond the badge and doing your job with empathy and sympathy, being that you’re always working with people.”
Jackson cautions that there are still many more steps ahead to improve relationships with police.
"As long as we're always doing this on top of other things,” said Jackson, “then hopefully we'll be able to see a change."
Heal Charlotte is hosting its Stop the Violence Day 2021 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 26 at Spirit Square. It is partnering with numerous community organizations to put on the event, including CMPD.