Transparency Matters: Officer Gladden’s Story

Gladden Father Son.jpg

Born and raised in Charlotte, Richard Gladden was a good kid. A natural athlete who made As and Bs, he knew how to stay out of trouble even before he attended the middle school where his father worked as a custodian.

“He kept a good eye on me,” says Gladden, who has been a CMPD police officer for three years. While he was never a troublemaker, like any preteen, he tried to fit it. “My goal was never to do anything bad, but I hung around with kids who did.”

One day, Gladden was in a school restroom when one of his friends knocked a fire extinguisher off the wall, releasing its contents. His friends were charged with destruction of property, but Gladden only received a suspension, or so he thought.

Seven years later, Gladden was a junior in college when he and a friend decided to apply to CMPD. When completing the application, he confidently answered “no” to questions about prior arrests. Gladden’s friend advanced to the Academy, but he did not.

“I thought I only had one speeding ticket to my name, but then I got an email from the background investigator asking about the police report for the juvenile arrest on my record,” said Gladden. “I had no idea. I was furious.”

Gladden had wanted to be a police officer since the age of six. His father served in the military and had good friends who were deputies in the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office. Gladden remembers thinking what a cool job law enforcement would be. After his CMPD application was rejected, he thought being an officer wasn’t possible for him. 

Several months later, Gladden’s friend invited him to his graduation from the Police Academy. Surrounded by newly minted officers ready to start their careers, Gladden decided to give it one more shot. He applied, this time including the middle school incident on his record. His application was approved. He passed CMPD’s rigorous recruiting process and graduated from the Academy with flying colors.


“In 2017, I hit the street,” says Officer Gladden. 

Gladden loved it. Working third shift, he wasn’t sleeping much but he was living his dream. Despite the paperwork and some emotionally tough calls, he found it incredibly rewarding to help people in crisis. 

His father was always very committed to service and doing what he could for others.

With CMPD, Officer Gladden enjoys being able to help kids who, like himself, grew up in poverty but lack the support he received from his parents and five siblings. He says he has always wanted to help young people, because they can change.

Officer Gladden often thinks about his purpose and motivation. He calls it his “why.” Over the years, it has changed.

“As a kid, my ‘why’ was to fit in. My ‘why’ for joining law enforcement was to help my community,” says Officer Gladden. Today his “why” is his wife and two young children.

In 2019, Officer Gladden took a yearlong break from CMPD to focus on his family and help his wife take care of their infant daughter. He feels that special time spent with his family has helped him learn to be more present with them when he’s not at work. He returned to CMPD in 2020 to “be the change he wants to see in the world.” He is glad to be back, and smiles widely when talking about how his baby daughter likes seeing her dad in uniform. 

“She knows I am her protector,” he says, a mindset he brings with him on patrol. “If I can make anyone feel safe, then that is what I am going to do.”


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