Police Chief Rodney Monroe is considering adding two police divisions in Charlotte-Mecklenburg in the next two to three years, a plan that he says would increase the number of officers by 160 to 200.
Speaking at a Steele Creek Division community forum in southwest Charlotte, Monroe said the plan could come before city leaders as early as this spring. The proposal, which would cost at least $6 million for salaries alone, would bring the total number of divisions to 15.
“If you're going to create another division … you have to add officers,” Monroe said.
The expansion plan is not yet complete, Monroe said, but it would effectively slice the North and South divisions in half, putting a new police station in both new districts. The complete cost is not yet clear.
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At 94 square miles, the North division is CMPD's largest. Officers there serve close to 76,000 people in northern Charlotte and the rural areas around Huntersville. The South division is 57.3 square miles in the southern tip of the county.
“If an officer has to travel 20 miles to get to that division, how many opportunities to interact with people in that area does he miss?” Monroe asked.
The plan would be an extension of one of Monroe's philosophies for policing – use the bulk of the department's resources on the patrol division and hold officers accountable for crime trends in small portions of the community. In September, Monroe moved about 90 officers from specialty units to patrol divisions. He also instituted a new rank of response area commanders – sergeants responsible for one area around the clock.
The department last added a district in 2007, putting close to 90 officers in University City. That preceded Monroe, who took over as chief in June, but Monroe said public safety officials talked about adding additional divisions even then.
The department's 13 divisions each have between 80 and 100 officers. Divisions near uptown tend to be smaller than those far from the urban center or in rural parts of Mecklenburg County.
In August, Monroe said he might ask for additional officers when he announced his reorganization plan.
Some City Council members have said since then that they're open to the idea of funding more officers.
Warren Turner, a Democrat who is head of the community safety committee, said that the economy might make police expansion difficult.
“It's a tough time across the state. The economy's bad. We've already as a city frozen positions that we haven't filled yet,” Turner said. “I won't single out law enforcement or public safety. We'll hear what (Monroe is) proposing. … But I've kind of been telling people don't give us these big wish lists.”