Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s University City Division is quickly becoming one of the busiest divisions in the city. Captain Joan Gallant, a Charlotte native, recently stepped in as division commander, succeeding retired Captain Celestine Ratliffe. We sat down with Captain Gallant to learn more about her background, the challenges of her new role, and how the community can help keep University City safe.
What was your path to CMPD, and eventually to University City?
I was born and raised in Charlotte! I am a graduate of Olympic High School and attended NC State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. With a family in law enforcement, I have always been interested and passionate about this field.
Before joining the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in 2005, I had experience working with special needs individuals as well as in a retirement home. I also worked in housekeeping. These experiences taught me that no matter where you are in life, you understand the basics of what people truly need.
I have been with CMPD for 18 years. Before becoming Captain in the University City Division, I worked in the Community Wellness Division, which is a city-wide assignment and includes multiple units. One of those is the Community Policing Crisis Response Team, which is a mental health co-responder unit. This unit works all over the city, seven days a week, to respond to people that are experiencing a host of mental health challenges or crises.
How does the University City division compare with others in Charlotte?
The University City Division comprises 46.8 square miles of northern Mecklenburg County. This division has three response areas and 105 officers. Our unit is a collaboration of patrol officers staffing three shifts, division level detectives, community coordinators and crime reduction officers.
For the 28-day period from mid-December to mid-January, University City Division answered 2,413 calls for service. This made us number two in the department for call volume. A call for service doesn’t necessarily equal a criminal incident. It could be someone begging for money, a noise complaint, or a medical event. But this does demonstrate exactly how busy division is becoming.
What challenges does a rapidly growing community like University City present?
Change is going to happen. Growth is always going to come, and what may be working today may not work tomorrow. As our division continues to grow, we are constantly seeking opportunities to learn from past challenges and find more effective and creative strategies to utilize in the future. We always have a forward-thinking vision. As the University City Division continues to grow, paired with ongoing recruitment challenges, we must find ways to do more with less officers while maintaining public safety as the highest priority.
How can we all work together to make our area safer?
Taking care of each other is important. It takes effort from all of us. Check-in on your neighbors, lock your car doors, and of course if you see something, call us. Oftentimes, people feel like if it is not an emergency, they don’t call. However, we would much rather come out and try to resolve the issue, no matter how small, right away before it turns into something bigger.
What tools should the community know about to help you do your job effectively?
The CMPD page on the city website has links helpful information. This includes finding your own division, learning about recruiting, job opportunities and how to find out about different areas of the police department. Divisional contact information, like emails and phone numbers, are linked directly.
If you do not know what division you are in, there is a link where you can find your division. You enter your address in the map, and it will populate exactly what division and response area you’re in, which corresponds to the web page that lists the contact information for the division.
CMPD is also on social media, which is helpful in reaching community members quickly. For example, if there is a major crash, we will share updates, information, alternate routes, etc.
We also have an app, MyCMPD, that the community can use to engage with the department and find links for things like texting 911 or filing a police report. This app pushes out the latest updates and alerts directly to your phone. Additionally, we take reports in a variety of ways, outside of a police officer responding. You can file reports online, call 3-1-1, or call anonymously to Crimestoppers tips for things that may not require 9-1-1.
In general, 9-8-8 is the recently adopted phone number for the suicide and crisis lifeline. CMPD answers a lot of calls for services that are related to mental health. Anytime that someone needs to be connected to a mental health service, independent of them having to encounter a police officer, which can be challenging for some, 9-8-8 is a wonderful option.
What else would you like the community to know?
Police officers are also Charlotteans. I believe that any time we can showcase who we are as a person, this will only help strengthen our relationship with the community and create opportunities for further conversation that can bridge gaps between us. I am happy to be part of those conversations to hopefully help continue to build strong community relationships!