In Charlotte a lot of news goes unnoticed. News that isn't important enough to garner headlines at the Charlotte Observer or 15 second sound bites on Eyewitness News.
But notice this, on Friday after 37 years of service to the City and Citizens of Charlotte, Sergeant Whit Neal turned in his equipment.
There was no formal ceremony, no party or proclamation from the mayor’s office. Sergeant Neal simply turned in his radio and other gear, he’ll keep his weapon and his badge, and placed his letter of resignation on his supervisor’s desk and that was that.
Many have served their entire law enforcement careers at the CMPD. But few are as well known, liked and admired as Whit Neal.
Years ago when Charlotte was just a cross roads and I-77 was an empty stretch of land that ran parallel to South Blvd known then has South 21, Whit Neal exchanged his green ARMY uniform for the blue of the Charlotte Police Department.
Yes, that is right Whit Neal served in the good ole US ARMY from 1968-1971 and then again from 1991-1994 doing what he felt he should do for this country he so loves.
37 years later, it took less than ten minutes for his career to come to a sudden and abrupt close.
While the image of a police officer after 37 years that comes to mind is that of an overweight balding desk sergeant, Whit Neal is anything but balding and out of shape. Lean with a full head of black hair Whit Neal could easily be mistaken for a much younger cop covering the streets of Charlotte.
He is a combination of southern charm, Andy Taylor sensibility and modern law enforcement street smarts that comes with being part of Charlotte’s thin blue line for so many years.
Cedar Posts recalls a story from years back where two young rookie CMPD officers had stopped a suspect in one of Charlotte’s disadvantaged neighborhoods. They felt something wasn’t just right and called Sergeant Neal.
They both suspected that the person they had detained was a drug dealer but didn’t have anything to support their suspicion and needed Sergeant Neal’s advice on how to properly handle the situation. Neal suggested that they simply ask the suspect if he had any drugs.
The rookie cops followed their sergeant’s advice and asked the suspect, who freely admitted to having a large amount of drugs and was promptly arrested.
Giving It Up
When asked why he was giving it up, Whit replied he’d had enough, that the last year had been filled with needless strife and friends turning against friends in order to fit in with the new command’s management style. He also noted that suddenly cronyism had become rampant, morale had never been as low, due to the troubling direction the new chief has taken the department.
He is heartbroken to see the once effective and well respected CMPD officers so discontented that they are no longer proud to wear the uniform that he has for so many years.
But what really tore at the fabric of his heart was the treatment of the CMPD reserve unit and its members. Changes made earlier this year to the basic structure of the reserves, changes that came with an attitude that if you didn’t like the changes you could leave.
Those who did leave were replaced with retired command staff personnel, a clear attack on BLET trained officers.
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department has lost a highly valued asset, common sense, justice and ethics in a blue uniform that was Sergeant Whit Neal.