Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney will retire on July 1, nearly two months earlier than previously anticipated, City Manager Marcus Jones announced Monday afternoon.
CMPD Deputy Chief Johnny Jennings will be sworn in as the next chief that same day, Jones said. Jennings was chosen as Putney’s successor last month.
“We felt now was the right time for Chief Kerr Putney to retire,” Jones said during a virtual news conference.
Putney, who had originally planned to retire after the Republican National Convention in late August, said his decision was tied to the dramatically scaled-down event due to the coronavirus pandemic. This earlier date, Putney said, was not tied to ongoing protests for racial justice and police reform in Charlotte. CMPD faces ongoing scrutiny for deploying chemical agents against a group of largely peaceful demonstrators in early June.
“The RNC is not coming in the capacity we thought,” Putney said. “To be quite frank with you, I can control my own destiny and that’s exactly what I’m doing.”
Putney has been a law enforcement officer for nearly 30 years with CMPD.
Jennings is currently deputy chief of the CMPD Support Services Group, which oversees the Community Services Bureau. The bureau includes animal care and control, school resource officers, crime prevention, volunteers and several community outreach programs, the Observer has previously reported.
Putney said CMPD must continue working collaboratively with the community to curb violent crime. The work cannot turn into a “blame game,” Putney said — adding he will share more on policing tactics in the coming weeks.
The chief said he plans to stay in Charlotte and pursue consulting. Putney said he was heartbroken he couldn’t oversee a full RNC, at one point expected to draw more than 50,000 visitors to the city.
“Truthfully, I don’t like to leave anything unfinished,” Putney said.
Last fall, Putney had announced that he planned to retire at the end of 2019 and then come back as chief through the convention. But his plans ran afoul of N.C. Treasurer Dale Folwell, who said a state law prohibits a government employee from collecting a retirement pension with the “intent or agreement, expressed or implied, to return to service.”
Putney said Charlotte will see a seamless transition with Jennings leading CMPD.
“Find your voice and be true to who you are — never sacrifice that,” Putney offered as a recommendation to Jennings. “There are much more successful times that lay ahead for this city.”
This is a developing story. Check back for more.