Opinion

August 16, 2014

SBI might fit better with Public Safety

The N.C. General Assembly has moved the State Bureau of Investigation from the Department of Justice to the Department of Public Safety.

From an editorial in the Fayetteville Observer on Thursday:

The N.C. General Assembly has moved the State Bureau of Investigation from the Department of Justice to the Department of Public Safety.

Gov. Pat McCrory appoints Public Safety officials. Attorney General Roy Cooper heads Justice. Cooper’s staff cried foul at what they said was a blatantly political move to strip the SBI's independence.

Was it? Welcome to North Carolina. Cooper is a Democrat and McCrory a Republican, along with the majority of our legislators. Cooper will seek McCrory’s job.

But how does swapping a Democratic boss for a Republican constitute a loss of independence? Greg McLeod, the SBI director under Cooper, engaged in a letter campaign, saying the switch would “jeopardize” SBI investigations. The immediate threat was to McLeod, whom McCrory replaced with Alcohol Law Enforcement Director Bernard Collier.

Having an interim chief with a policing background could do wonders for shaky morale at what is essentially a police agency. Having the SBI answer to prosecutors created confusion. Placement alongside similar agencies within Public Safety makes sense.

Concerns about investigations of politicians remain. A probe of Scotland County Sheriff Shep Jones, a Democrat, should end shortly. How well the agency holds politicians like Jones and others accountable will tell us what political speculation doesn’t.

Let’s watch and see.

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