What do a fried chicken stand and a police department have in common? No, this is not a joke. The head of a major law enforcement agency hopes he can bring the wisdom of a successful fast food chain into his operation.
The Chick-Fil-A experience
Chief Johnny Jennings was sworn in as the senior executive of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) a little over a year ago. He rose through the ranks of the CMPD, starting as a recruit in 1992. The city of Charlotte is the 15th largest city in the United States and the CMPD has approximately 2,000 sworn officers.
Like many others in the South and elsewhere, Chief Jennings is a fan of a certain fast food chain.
“Chick-Fil-A is one of those places my family likes to go where the customer experience is good and consistent,” Jennings told Police1. “Every time you go to Chick-fil-A you have a consistent quality, the people are friendly and you come away with a feeling of being appreciated as a customer. Why can’t we do this to the police? Why can’t we have good interactions with people on a regular basis where we leave them a good impression of their interaction with law enforcement? “
When Chief Jennings presented this idea at a staff meeting, he discovered that one of his public information officers knew John R. DiJulius III from The DiJulius group. DiJulius was responsible for developing some of the customer service strategies used at Chick-Fil-A. Some collaboration between Jennings and DiJulius led to a customer experience workshop at CMPD in January 2021, where more than 150 CMPD employees at all levels of the agency formed the basis of the customer service initiative.
DiJulius has found a soul mate in Chef Jennings.
“From the first moment I was introduced to Chef Jennings, I was inspired. He is a visionary. He’s ready to go through the wall first. He looks outside the industry and wants to learn from the private sector. It’s just a relentless vision that he has rallied so many people around. Some of the opponents helped us understand how to better prepare for the training.
Customer service in law enforcement
It’s obvious that creating a good customer experience for people buying chicken sandwiches requires a different approach than for people interacting with law enforcement. When the police show up, more often than not someone is having a bad day. Chef Jennings appreciates it but says there is still room to improve the experience: “When you go to a retail store or to Disney World, or to a hotel, you expect to be treated with respect and dignity. , where you don’t have a negative impression of this interaction. And that’s the concept I wanted to explore with the police.
There are times when the police can change the tone of a meeting with citizens just by taking a few seconds to explain the situation.
“I want to let our officers know that sometimes it takes an extra 20 seconds to explain or talk about things. It doesn’t all have to be the “Just the Facts” method of policing. But taking those 20 seconds to have an ongoing conversation with someone you are in contact with could have a lasting impression on that person, ”Jennings said.
Law enforcement officers at all levels are trained to defuse encounters with citizens, rather than forcefully intervening and overriding tactics. Properly applied, de-escalation can reduce the need for tactical intervention.
“I think when you start looking at how you treat an individual, we hear all the time about cops who can make a situation worse,” Jennings said. “Sometimes it’s not an escalation based on what they say, but maybe sometimes on how they say it and whether someone feels disrespectful or doesn’t care. feeling of being treated appropriately by officers. So when you look at something like that, in terms of a de-escalation situation, we do it all the time. We do this when we make SWAT calls with hostage negotiations, it is all based on de-escalation so that we can have positive results. “
Charlotte PD training
The Revolutionizing CommUNITY Collaboration training for CMPD employees will begin with a 1.5-hour online training that teaches fundamental concepts, followed by a four-hour in-person session with two trainers with role plays and scenarios, followed by brief capsule topics rolled out to convene briefings and other meetings which officers and civilians regularly attend.
This is expected to be an ongoing effort, reinforcing the principles of the program through repetition and analysis of incidents where the customer experience model has been or has not been applied correctly. . There will be incentives for employees who apply the principles of this training to their style of work.
“We’re going to look at different rewards that we can give to officers and recognition to officers for providing this good customer service,” Jennings told Police1. “And I think it’s important that we celebrate when we recognize that so that expectations become part of our culture within the department. When we interact with people, we think about this and think about how we can leave a positive impression before we end this interaction.
The training program was developed internally at CMPD, and not purchased from the DiJulius group.
“We developed it,” Jennings told Police1. “They’re not the ones who come in and say, ‘Hey, here’s your lesson plan, and that’s what you’re going to do.’ It was a collaborative effort among all of us. I think we’ve all learned quite a bit in the process.
Law enforcement officers are notorious for being stuck in their ways and resistant to new ideas, especially if new things conflict with their worldview and working style. Chief Jennings is aware of this and is hopeful that the program will eventually be accepted by the base.
“So resistance is something that was expected,” Jennings said. “I think a lot of officers are in their ways, and when you throw something new at them, they’ll be skeptical about it. My goal and my hope is that when they see what it is, when they will have the explanation and when they start going through it they will accept it more and understand why we need this and how it will improve our department, improve the community and at the same time, even make them safer in the streets. “
Other law enforcement professionals monitor CMPD to see how well the customer service initiative is going. John DiJulius is optimistic about the outcome: “The results of what happens in Charlotte will speak for themselves. More than half a dozen law enforcement agencies have contacted us in the wake of news published over the past six months. We have already reserved some.
Chief Jennings wants the best possible relationship between police and citizens, but he also recognizes the need for high morale among his officers: “The biggest thing that can influence morale is the satisfaction you get from your job, the positive interactions you have all day. , every day, not only with people outside the organization, but also internally within the organization. “
The CMPD program could also lead to the creation of a new post in the police administration. “The fastest growing role in US companies over the past 15 years is Experience Director at Fortune 500 Companies,” said DeJulius. “Well, the chief sends one of his employees to an academy to learn how to be an experienced chief. Officer. I doubt there is a police department in the country, maybe in the world, who has an experienced leader, CMPD draws a line in the sand saying, “This is who we’re going to be.”
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