Justice Accountability position stirs concern
12:00 pm
Wed November 19, 2008

Justice Accountability position stirs concern

One thing is already clear: whoever lands the job will need strong persuasive skills to earn the $141,000 salary.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe doesn't like the position. He told WSOC TV, "I was hired here to do a job. I don't need someone else to tell me how to do it, when to do it, what to do."

Monroe says it would make more sense to use that money to add three police officers to the force.

And as Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory sees it, there's already enough city and county staff dedicated to coordinating the work of the different agencies. "I think I agree with the Police Chief and the former Sheriff and the DA saying, 'Heck, if you've got $140,000 let's put it directly into the criminal justice system and not spend it on more administrative staff," says McCrory.

The job is the brainchild of the Justice and Public Safety Task Force. The citizen panel was organized after hundreds of people marched on City Hall this spring frustrated with an up tick in crime. The group's top recommendation and the only yet approved by county commissioners is the creation of the Justice Accountability position.

Michelle Lancaster Sandlin, a county General Manager, is one of the people the Director would report to. "There's no one person who takes the 30,000 foot level strategic view. Everybody's got their own things they've got to manage on a day-to-day basis. And this could help those people work and be more effective and efficient and really leverage the resources that they have," says Lancaster Sandlin.

The task force also recommends expanding a program to fast-track repeat offenders and better aligning the priorities of the police chiefs and the DA's office. But its members see the new position as essential to making sure those things happen.

Julie Eiseldt with Neighbors for a Safer Charlotte acknowledges the job's limitations. But she says the director will have some power over elected officials. "You can't force parties to respond to his recommendations, but he can make it very public when certain parties aren't coming to the table," says Eiseldt.

Former Mecklenburg County Sheriff Jim Pendergraph had been suggested for the job. He says he considered the position but decided not to apply when he saw the job would have no direct authority to carry out changes.

The County says so far about 70 people have applied for the position.

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