A week after Mecklenburg commissioners voted to kill a contract with Charlotte to provide police service in rural areas, the city defended itself Monday, saying it provided excellent service for roughly 60,000 people in unincorporated areas.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Police chief Kerr Putney told City Council Monday that he never said another police force could be more effective than CMPD.
“There is an assertion that other agencies could police those areas better than CMPD,” Putney said. “That is false. No one can provide better than CMPD.”
Putney also said the city and county never had a verbal agreement to change the police contract.
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“There is an assertion that we had an agreement,” Putney said. “That is false.”
Since 1996, CMPD has had an agreement with Mecklenburg County to provide police services for rural areas that aren’t part of Charlotte or the six towns.
But last week, commissioners voted 9-0 to kill that agreement, starting in July 2018. The main reason is that Huntersville wants to patrol the areas near the town.
Huntersville told commissioners it doesn’t make sense for CMPD to respond to calls for the nearly 2,400 people who live near the town but just outside the town limits.
Commissioners said the city wouldn’t allow Huntersville to break away from the contract. So they voted to scrap the entire agreement.
Republican Commissioner Jim Puckett, who represents north Mecklenburg, contended that the city and county had once had a handshake agreement to change the contract. He also said CMPD had told him that Huntersville could do an effective job in patrolling the areas.
Puckett and other commissioners said they believe the $18 million paid by residents in unincorporated areas is too much money. Republican Bill James said the rural areas have little crime, and he said he believes CMPD is using that money to patrol the city of Charlotte.
There is an assertion that other agencies could police those areas better than CMPD. That is false.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police chief Kerr Putney
City officials said Monday they did not have a breakdown of how much the city spent patrolling the unincorporated areas. City Manager Marcus Jones and Putney said CMPD provides other services such as its crime lab, SWAT team and helicopters.
“It’s hard for me to break out the value of a helicopter until it saves a life,” he said.
The city said it would negotiate with the county about the rural policing.
A bill pending in the General Assembly would make it easier for towns and cities to patrol unincorporated areas nearby. If that bill doesn’t pass, Mecklenburg County might have to provide the police service itself.