CHARLOTTE — With fewer than 30-days left on the job, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe made his last speech to the Hood Hargett Breakfast Group on Thursday.
We’re still awaiting word on his replacement, but he once again hinted the next chief would come from within the ranks.
Monroe said the department has made significant strides in the past seven years and reiterated his hope that the city would appoint an internal candidate to replace him.
Monroe, who’s headed CMPD since 2008, spoke at the monthly Hood Hargett Breakfast Club luncheon at the Palm Restaurant in Phillips Place. He has said he would retire effective July 1. The crime rate has ticked down during Monroe’s tenure, and last year Charlotte saw its lowest homicide total since the 1970s.
The chief credited several initiatives with bringing down crime:
▪ Reorganizing the police department. Shortly after taking over, Monroe decentralized the department, reassigning nearly 90 officers from specialized units to patrol. With an expanded force, he split each division into three response areas, ultimately making a lieutenant responsible for each area.
“We were creating an environment where every division could stand on its own as a mini police department,” he said. “If you have a problem, you don’t need to call Rodney Monroe, there’s one person you can call. … That has allowed us to be more responsive to our community.”
▪ Increased use of technology. The department now has access to 600 camera feeds across the city. Officers work with the court system to track roughly 300 crime suspects via electronic monitoring.
“We asked ourselves how do we take advantage of the technology that is out there that allows us to increase our scope,” Monroe said. “We had already taken action to buy cameras. The DNC really allowed us to put that program on steroids and gear toward a system with more technology.”
▪ Increased emphasis on smaller crimes. Monroe said the department made more of an effort to prevent and solve crimes that affect a large swath of Charlotteans, such as car break-ins.
“When I first came here, it wasn’t about the shootings and the killings and the robberies,” Monroe said. “People were more concerned about having their cars broken into, having their homes broken into and having a sense that we were not going to care about it.”
CMPD Chief Monroe bids farewell at Hood Hargett Breakfast Club
Monroe addresses retirement, the department’s standing
More than 50 residents dined at The Palms at Phillip’s Place in SouthPark on June 4, a Thursday, during the Hood Hargett Breakfast Club’s farewell luncheon to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) Chief Rodney Monroe.
Monroe announced his resignation on May 18, adding he would officially step down on July 1. Monroe addressed attendees about the current state of the police department, and his reasons for retiring from the force.
“After seven years, now is a good time,” he said. “Your department and the city are in good hands and in a good state.”
Monroe has served in law enforcement for 36 years, spending 15 years as chief of police in three cities. Monroe added he is leaving to spend more time with his family.
“Finding the right time (to retire) is hard,” he said. “The suddenness came after a long deliberation with my family and I decided to retire now, especially since things are going well with the police department.”
The majority of his speech addressed the current state of the police department, where he reflected on the department’s efforts to rely on technology, as well as become more involved in the community.
Monroe cited the Democratic National Convention, held in Charlotte in 2008, as a catalyst for upgrading technology, which has continued to be a great resource benefiting the department by saving man hours and using resources more wisely.
“Camera access in public views allowed us to put that program on steroids to a tech system that allows tag readers and shot spotters to have 22-hours per day of crime surveillance,” he said.
There are 100 license plate readers throughout the city that help locate stolen automobiles, according to Monroe. He said car theft crime has decreased by 69 percent in seven years since the department began using this technology.
“When I first came here, people were more concerned about having their cars broken into and stolen and homes broken into than violent crimes,” said Monroe.
He also remarked how shot spotters use technology that pinpoints the sound of a gunshot to within a small proximity of its expected location.
“We get 10 to 15 calls per sound of a gunshot and it takes time to track down where it comes from, but the shot spotter gives the precise location and helps us pool our resources better,” he said.
Monroe believes the most valuable change the department has moved toward is becoming more community-focused. Under his leadership, the department started focusing on a division-centered model versus a central approach, making each division, such as South or University, the main connection to its corresponding community.
“Every community has different needs and conditions,” he said. “Every division can stand out on its own by making one person responsible for every neighborhood – having someone focused on your community level allows us to be more responsive to the community,” he said.
Monroe also mentioned the department’s community outreach efforts, where the police department works with local service providers to help repeat offenders get the help they need to prevent the cycle of crime.
Two of the department’s officers helped an 18-year-old boy, who had 17 arrests and dozens of charges, receive treatment for drug addiction. After his recovery, he got accepted to and eventually graduated from Central Piedmont Community College.
“Community outreach is important,” Monroe said. “We need to be out there everyday trying to understand what’s going on and working to prevent future problems.”
Monroe concluded he felt leaving while the department was at the “top of its game” was a good decision and he believes his replacement, which he said could be announced in the coming weeks, should come from within the department.
“We’ve been able to develop people to be the future one in charge,” he said.
Hood Hargett Breakfast Club members gave Monroe a standing ovation as the club’s owner, Chuck Hood, hugged Monroe and complimented him on a job well done.
The Hood Hargett Breakfast Club is a business development and networking group of more than 300 business and civic leaders at more than 48 events each year.
Jenn Snyder, executive director of the group, said Monroe has been active with Hood Hargett for the longevity of his time with the force.
“It’s a tremendous honor and we are forever grateful that he took the time to fit this into his schedule during his last 30 days as chief of police,” she said.