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Police Chief Rodney Monroe calls retirement ‘bittersweet’

Well wishers crowd around Rodney Monroe, who is retiring as CMPD chief, prior to the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum. Andrew Murray, Mecklenburg County District Attorney and Monroe spoke at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum. The forum was held at the Ivory Baker Recreation Center on Tuesday June 16, 2015.
Well wishers crowd around Rodney Monroe, who is retiring as CMPD chief, prior to the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum. Andrew Murray, Mecklenburg County District Attorney and Monroe spoke at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum. The forum was held at the Ivory Baker Recreation Center on Tuesday June 16, 2015. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Retiring CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe called his decision to retire “bittersweet” as he reflected on his service Tuesday at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum, a weekly community gathering.

Andrew Murray, Mecklenburg County district attorney, joined Monroe to answer questions from visitors, touching on juvenile crime, low funding from the state and reduced jail populations. The event was at the Ivory Baker Recreation Center just outside uptown.

Monroe will retire July 1, when Kerr Putney, who has been with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department for 23 years, will take over as police chief. Putney was named to the job Monday.

The outgoing chief opened by reflecting on his seven years in the job.

“I realized that if I left it up to myself I would never be finished doing some of the things that I believe the community and the people need throughout Charlotte and Mecklenburg, so we just had to pick a date,” he said about deciding with his wife to retire.

Monroe shared some issues for CMPD to focus on after his retirement, including diverting kids and teenagers from crime through various programs.

One diversion program he worked on includes 16- and 17-year-olds who are first-time offenders. They are offered resources and support to avoid future crime instead of arrest. With over 600 participants so far, the diversion program has had an 88 percent success rate, Monroe said.

Officials are also looking into programs for youths and attorneys to work together to have minor crimes expunged from their records, preventing future challenges in college admissions and job applications, Monroe said.

Monroe and Murray also emphasized the need to focus on early childhood education in preventing future crime.

“Until we’re able to say that we’ll invest more in early childhood education … we’re going to continue to struggle,” Monroe said.

However, they emphasized the improvements in the system in the past few years, including reducing the Mecklenburg County jail population from about 3,000 to around 1,500 in just a few years, with no increase in crime, Murray said, which is likely related to bail reform.

They also discussed how low state funding affects the district attorney’s office in quickly handling cases. State funding is 48th in the nation, just above Mississippi and Arkansas, Murray said. The funding has affected employee retention rates and the technological capabilities of the office, which is not paperless.

“Unfortunately in those cuts, the first thing they cut is the IT section,” he said. “It’s been difficult. I would say that we are nowhere close to this century (in technology).”

Correction: CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe discussed programs for youths to have their crimes expunged, not District Attorney Andrew Murray, as the article previously indicated.

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