Building Police-Community Relations with Captain Stephen Iyevbele

Published on March 27, 2024

Captain Stephen Iyevbele (right) shaking the hand of fellow officer James Whitt.

Captain Stephen Iyevbele (right) shaking the hand of fellow officer James Whitt.

By Kayla Chadwick-Schultz

Metro Division Captain Stephen Iyevbele joined the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department after spending six years with the United States Army (82nd Airborne Division). The decision to transition out of the military and into police work was a natural one for him, since his father served in the Nigeria Police Force for 38 years and retired as the Chief Superintendent of Police. He had been around police all his life, so it made sense for him to want to follow in his father’s footsteps.

That wasn’t the only reason he wanted to become a police officer, though. Iyevbele wanted “an opportunity to give back” to his community. So, that’s what he set out to do. He let his passion for working with Charlotte’s youth and our various youth programs drive him day after day, year after year. Eventually, his commitment to serving the community resulted in something he never saw coming—a 2022 Police-Community Relations Award (PCRA).

“I was very surprised,” recalled Iyevbele, “and at the same time honored to know that I was nominated.” He went on to explain that CMPD officers do so much amazing work throughout the community, but they don’t advertise it. “We do not serve our community for recognition. It’s just what we do.”

That sentiment is at the heart of why the Police-Community Relations Awards exist in the first place. Just because the officers are not in it for the recognition, that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve some. So, instead of leaving it up to them, we leave it up to you—the community—to recognize the good work of your local CMPD officers by nominating them for the 44th annual Police-Community Relations Awards.

What PCRAs Mean to Officers and the Community

Iyevbele visiting Smart Kids’ Child Development Center in 2017.

Iyevbele visiting Smart Kids’ Child Development Center in 2017.  

The PCRAs were first established in 1979 as a way to promote and express the community’s appreciation to police officers who have made an outstanding contribution to the improvement of police-community relations. Each year, officers are recognized for their advanced creative solutions to neighborhood problems, demonstrating extraordinary efforts around crime prevention, and building positive relationships with individual residents and neighborhood groups. However, the work doesn’t stop just because an officer receives recognition.

Since his being awarded a PCRA in 2022, Iyevbele has continued to build and foster relationships throughout Charlotte. “I have attended several community meetings within and outside my division,” he shared. “I have attended at least two Town Hall events where emphasis was placed on reducing youth violence/crimes. I am a mentor with Promise Youth Development and have been for five years. I have assisted with Building Bridges Through Basketball.”

These are just a few of the things that Captain Iyevbele has been up to since receiving his PCRA. He also oversaw multiple youth programs, including summer camps, and conducted quarterly youth check-ins. He has always been passionate about serving Charlotte’s youth. It’s why he received the award in the first place, and it’s why he continues to work so hard to address quality of life issues and keep the community safe.

Even though Iyevbele does not do his job for the sake of these awards, he also recognizes their value to the community and their ability to highlight the incredible work that his fellow CMPD officers are doing daily. It is an opportunity to call attention to “heroic acts that people would ordinarily not know about or see on the news.”

However, he was very clear about the fact that accolades are not what motivates police officers. “I believe 99% of officers joined the force knowing that there is a possibility that they might give their life for the life of others,” he explained. “It’s a part of the nobility of the profession not to expect something in return. We do not do it to be recognized; it’s second nature.”

Still, Iyevbele appreciated the recognition and humbly displays his award in his office. If anything, it serves as a reminder of what he already knows: community comes first. 

Connecting with the Community as a Police Officer 

Iyevbele (middle) with two officers (Chris Decker & David Blum) after assisting a stranded driver in 2019.

Iyevbele (middle) with two officers (Chris Decker & David Blum) after assisting a stranded driver in 2019. 

“Community engagement is extremely important to CMPD,” said Iyevbele. “We understand that we cannot do our jobs without a supportive community. I believe that our community thrives when [residents] and law enforcement come together and work towards a common goal.”

With this in mind, CMPD has invested a lot of energy and resources into community engagement programs—particularly youth programs. “We believe in the betterment of our youth, because they are our future,” Iyevbele noted. That’s why CMPD is one of only a few major police departments that runs a yearly youth summer camp. This type of hands-on community engagement is a great source of pride for Iyevbele, and it makes him love Charlotte even more.

“I am very invested in this city. I love this city,” he explained. “I live in Charlotte, my children go to public school in Charlotte, and I plan on living in Charlotte post-retirement because this city has given so much to me and my family.”

It can be so easy to see law enforcement as being outside of the general population, but it is important to remember that these officers are members of our community too. Just as Iyevbele said, they live and work in the same city as you. Their kids go to the same schools. They go to the same grocery stores and restaurants. They want the best for their community not just because they are officers but because they are active members.

So, get to know them! There are a lot of opportunities to interact with police officers in your area. While some divisions are more active than others, some host regular community meetings, organize neighborhood watch groups, and participate in National Night Out or Halloween events. In some cases, CMPD will even attend school career fairs. Ultimately, if you want to engage with your local police, all you have to do is ask. You’ll be sure to see them around.

Once you get to know your local officers and the good work they’re doing around your community, don’t let it go unnoticed. Nominate them for a Police-Community Relations Award! As Captain Iyevbele reiterated, these awards are not something officers will ever actively seek. They are, however, very appreciated by those who receive them.

You can nominate an officer or team using the online nomination form or by mailing nominations to The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee.