‘Young people with big voices.’ CMPD does ‘Cops and Cleats’ meet-and-greet with Appalachian State football players

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CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Students from Appalachian State University got a first-hand look at what it takes to be a police officer during the first-ever Cops and Cleats event hosted by CMPD at their training facility in Charlotte.

Chief Johnny Jennings says it’s a way to reach young people with big voices. It’s defensive tactics like the ones that were shown to students on Tuesday that aims to break barriers between police and the community. About 100 athletes from App State spent the day learning them with CMPD officers.

Chief Jennings says athletes have a tremendous voice when it comes to social issues and says forming these relationships now helps attract future recruits. “Athletes have extremely strong voices. And some probably don’t even realize how strong their voice is with others,” Jennings said. “If we don’t make an effort to show them who we are, let them have an informed opinion of who we are, then we’re failing our young people.”

Students got a chance to put what they learned to work. Watching K-9 training tactics, using fake guns, and voice commands in simulators they were thrown into real-life scenarios just like what officers face on the streets. Tommy Dawkins is a senior and plans to be an officer after he graduates from college. Right now he’s a football defensive end and says getting to know the police and their job helps after missing an internship due to Covid.

“I want to show kids like hey, it’s okay to be a black man in law enforcement,” Dawkins said. “I think that it shows the human side of them, shows their preparation and how they’re really protecting the community instead of trying to harm it.” Head Coach Shawn Clark says the event has been in the making for six months and that these connections between students and the police are priceless.

“It’s about community relations, police relations, and really breaking that barrier down,” Clark said. “Because we’re very appreciative of all enforcement and what they do.” The department has plans to invite more student-athletes to the CMPD training facility.

Next, officers plan to host students from Johnson C. Smith University and UNC-Charlotte.

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