Some of the 300 gathered at a west Charlotte church said they were honored just to shake the new police chief's hand. Others said they wouldn't be satisfied until they saw results – more officers in their neighborhoods, and less crime.
Tuesday's event at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church on Beatties Ford Road was the first in a series of meetings with people in each of the city's 13 patrol divisions by Chief Rodney Monroe. He met with people who live in the Metro division, in northern and northwest Charlotte.
Monroe hammered on many of the talking points he's made since he took the chief's job nearly two months ago – making officers target crime in smaller areas, putting more officers on patrol, and solving problems identified by frontline officers.
But Westside residents hammered back. Some wanted to know Monroe's plans for combating gangs and youth violence. Others wondered at his decision to break up specialized divisions like the international relations unit. And then there were those who said their neighborhood had a particular problem and wanted the chief to handle it, now.
But many interviewed after the two-hour event said they felt that Monroe was genuinely interested in their concerns.
“He's listening,” said John Jackson, a Beatties Ford Park resident who said he's seen seven or eight chiefs in his 75 years in Charlotte. “We know where his mind is.”
Among the issues:
Monroe defended his decision to redeploy certain specialized units back to patrol. “I'm bringing the resources back to the community.”
He stayed away from making sweeping policy statements. But he said many of the problems faced by Metro division residents – loitering for drug activity, thefts, and youth-based crime – could be tackled by holding officers responsible for combating crime trends specific to small-focus areas within the divisions. He told the people gathered that he would likely ask the city for more officers.
The meeting came days after the department released its internal affairs report, which showed a marked increase in use of force by officers. But Monroe defended his department's policies.
“We're going to look at every situation and make sure there's no malice and no discrimination,” he said. “But I'll be honest with you. We're seeing more violence in this community. There are people out there who are willing to hurt you and hurt us.”
Monroe shook hands with dozens at the end and later said the high turnout is a sign that people are ready to effect change in their neighborhood.
“I think there's just so much power in that,” he said. “That's going to cause more change than a department policy.”