FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 2, 2015 Contact:
Ashley Simmons, Office of the Mayor
704-336-3438 or 704-614-9116 firstname.lastname@example.org
Cops and Barbers—a simple idea conceived during a routine haircut—has quickly become a powerful community engagement tool for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD).
The brainchild of CMPD Police Chief Rodney Monroe and his barber Gene Winchester, owner of Fourth Ward Barber & Hairstyle, provides a unique way for citizens and the officers who serve them to have open, honest dialogue on matters involving police and race relations in the African American community. Winchester says the response of the community proves the overwhelming level of interest.
“The support of the partnership and town hall events has been nothing short of incredible,” said Winchester. “We intend to keep this momentum going. Police-community relations are too important of an issue to overlook.”
The partnership between Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the North Carolina Local Barbershop Association (NCLBA) produces coordinated monthly town hall meetings with the African-American community. CMPD and NCLBA have committed to 13 town hall events this year in different areas of the city.
After learning of the program’s success, Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter worked with CMPD to obtain a $10,000 grant from Foundation For The Carolinas (FFTC) to help expand the Cops and Barbers initiative. FFTC officials said the framework of Cops and Barbers provides a venue to strengthen community trust and mutual understanding.
“It’s a great honor for Foundation For The Carolinas to support this innovative effort. The images we’ve seen from other cities demonstrates an urgent need for honest and candid discussions between our law enforcement officers and members of the community. We are convinced that the early success of Cops and Barbers show great promise for Charlotte as well as cities across the nation,” said Brian Collier, Executive Vice President, FFTC.
The town halls allow members of the community to learn about their rights and the appropriate manner to handle themselves when coming in contact with police. Additionally, citizens are informed of the appropriate manner with which officers must conduct themselves when engaging with the public. Officers of every rank participate in the interactive sessions which feature use of a Mobile Firearms Training Simulator (FATS) so community members can experience the split second decisions officers are often forced to make. CMPD estimates nearly 1100 community members have attended the four sessions held so far.
Cops and Barbers was also recently highlighted by the White House as part of a progress report on police-community relations since the establishment of the national 21st Century Policing Taskforce.
“Police-community relations are one of the most important issues we’re currently facing as a society,” said Chief Monroe. “We’d be shortsighted if we didn’t do anything and everything in our power to maintain and strengthen these relationships. The generous support from the FFTC speaks volumes about the organization’s commitment to our community. I personally applaud them for their investment in the partnership.”
CMPD is currently working to harness the enthusiasm sparked by Cops and Barbers to identify other opportunities for officers and young members of the African-American community to interact in ways that break down barriers and help each see experiences from a different perspective. The next Cops and Barbers town hall meeting is scheduled for June 7 at 3 pm at the Methodist Home Recreation Center.