Chief shakes up police department

New Police Chief Rodney Monroe has announced sweeping changes that will alter the way police approach crime in every Charlotte-Mecklenburg community. It's the most significant overhaul in more than a decade, and the new organization will mirror the approach he used as chief in Richmond.

Monroe will significantly beef up the department's gang unit and change the way the department investigates most shootings. He will also redeploy some specialty units – such as a street crimes – back to patrol divisions.

But the most significant change is installing commanders into each of the city's 39 response areas, which are now supervised by 13 captains. The new commanders will be responsible for their areas 24-7 and will be called into monthly meetings to account for the crime stats in their territory. Monroe is also dividing the citywide patrol division in half, and putting two deputy chiefs in charge of roughly half of the department's rank-and-file officers.

Monroe says the move will increase accountability and identify and head off crime trends earlier.

"We're setting a framework for us to move into the future," Monroe told the Observer. "This will allow us to move the agency forward."

Most changes will take effect Sept. 6, though the department has been trying out some aspects of Monroe's plans for weeks, he said.

Monroe spent this morning informing officers about the changes. He expects some unhappiness from officers and from some in the community, he said. But he points out that the changes also create new advancement opportunities and allows for more intense focus on smaller areas.

Among the changes:

Improving Patrol

The department's 1,062 patrol officers will be divided into two divisions, overseen by two of the department's highest ranking officers. Deputy Chief Jerry Sennett will supervise the northern division, and Deputy Chief Kerr Putney will handle the southern division. Each will be responsible for roughly 500 officers.

The change allows for closer scrutiny by the department's leaders, Monroe says.

Smaller focus areas

The officers in each of the department's 39 response areas will be charged with figuring out the most pressing problems in their jurisdictions and coming up with plans to combat those crimes. Their commanders will report to Monroe monthly to explain changes in crime statistics from their areas, and explain what they're doing about the trends.

Putting officers back in neighborhoods

In all, 89 officers from specialized units will be sent back to patrol divisions, with more than a third coming from the department's centralized street crimes unit. Monroe says some of the redeployed officers will continue to do specialty work within their new areas, while others will go on patrol.

Cracking down on gangs

Monroe will nearly double the department's gang unit, which now will include more than a dozen officers. The goal, Monroe said, is “to dismantle localized gangs within the city.”

Also, expect more collaboration with federal authorities.

Improving shooting investigations

The department will revamp investigations to allow 14 detectives to investigate non-fatal shootings, which are currently investigated by patrol officers. Monroe says all shootings must be vigorously investigated and that the new unit will collaborate with homicide detectives.