Viewpoint

Charlotte hails the Chief – and I don’t know why

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe has announced his retirement.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe has announced his retirement. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Rodney Monroe has always had a hold on Charlotte. I’ve never understood why.

The CMPD chief recently announced his retirement. The city and media showered him with praise for reducing crime to levels not seen in decades.

“Monroe to retire after sharp drop in crime,” declared the Observer headline. Another account, offering Seven Fascinating Facts About Rodney Monroe, glowed, “Under his leadership, Charlotte ... saw a historic low in homicides.” Most media parroted the paper.

The fact is homicides and violent crime dropped sharply and historically nationwide during Monroe’s years here, according to the FBI; to levels not seen across the U.S. since the 1970s. A fact more fascinating to the prevailing sensibility might have been, “Crime plummeted practically everywhere during the years Rodney Monroe happened to be Charlotte’s police chief,” but reflexive adoration won out.

There’s never been much challenging of Rodney Monroe by his bosses at Charlotte GuvCo. I’ve never known why.

His tenure has included several officer-involved shootings and questions of excessive force; the sexual assault of at least five women by an officer the chief admitted should have never been hired; the misdeeds of a detective whose lost notes and fabrications took the death penalty off the table for the killer of two CMPD officers; and many matters of openness and transparency, among other controversies. Through it all, Monroe has been constantly kissed by four mayors, the City Council, one full-time and one interim city manager.

Only current manager Ron Carlee seems to have challenged the chief, an offense for which Carlee may lose his job.

Last year, Monroe promoted himself from a two-star chief to a four-star chief. I’ve never heard why.

Over the weekend I emailed three CMPD spokespeople, asking who authorized the additional stars on the chief’s collar and what they mean. It’s now Tuesday afternoon. I’ll let you know if I hear something.

Shortly after he became chief in 2008, Rodney Monroe came to my radio studio. We talked about gangs and staffing and cops on the street. Finally, I asked, “If I’m at an ATM and it spits out thousands of dollars, do I get to keep the money?”

“No,” he replied instantly. “No.”

“But I didn’t do anything wrong?”

“It’s not yours, Keith,” he laughed. “You have to give it back.”

“At Virginia Commonwealth University they’re saying you’re keeping a college degree you got (but didn’t earn), because you didn’t do anything wrong – but the college did do something wrong. They gave out a degree ... like a busted ATM. Why don’t I get to keep the money at the ATM but you get to keep the degree?”

“Keith, I’m not going to continue to debate this issue.”

Seconds later, he was gone. Though invited back several times, he hasn’t spoken with me since.

About this, I do know why.

Larson is the mid-morning host on WBT-AM (1110).

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