As Charlotte's new police chief for less than a month, Rodney Monroe has been a busy man.
He's visited crime scenes trying to get a first hand look at incidents going down in the Queen City. He does this, he says, not simply because he is the new chief, but so he can see what's working on the streets and make informed decisions when the time comes.
"That's how I operate," says Monroe.
And how he operates is sure to be tested thoroughly at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
Monroe, 51, has been in law enforcement for more than 30 years and came to North Carolina after leading the Richmond, Va. Police Department. Under his leadership, crime in that city reached its lowest point in 26 years, according to a statement from the Richmond city administrator's office. But here in Charlotte, he faces a number of citizens who have much to complain about when it comes to the boys in blue.
Many in the African-American community are outraged by the recent shooting of a black man by a police officer. Middle class residents living in places like Plaza Midwood are also pissed that neighborhood crime keeps rising. And then there was the arrest of two former CMPD officers, accused of helping a purported drug dealer -- and those are among various other incidents that have tarnished the image of law enforcement in the city.
"Coming into CMPD, facing some of those scenarios is not shocking or surprising to me," Monroe says. "I think people's interest and concern in crime doesn't change. People want to be safe. So that doesn't surprise me that there's so much concern about crime. People want to be treated fairly and they want to hold police to the highest level of accountability when it comes to use of force."
Use of force in Charlotte has been highlighted within the last year due to a number of police shootings and one in-custody death. In the majority of these cases, the officers in question never faced any charges.
This year alone, police have been involved in four nonfatal shootings, which are being investigated by the department:
• February 27: Police were serving a warrant with the Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency at 9816 Langston Mill Road in north Charlotte. According to CMPD reports: "Gilberto Rivas, the brother of the primary suspect, fired at officers after they made entry in the house. One officer sustained minor injuries. An officer returned fire, striking Mr. Rivas. He was transported to Carolinas Medical Center where he is being treated for critical injuries."
• March 2: Police responded to a burglary call at the Dollar Tree on South Boulevard. According to police reports: "Officer Matthew Relic, as the first officer on the scene, confronted Dinkins [the suspect] in the parking lot of the business. Dinkins began fighting with the officer, refused to comply with any verbal commands and pulled a handgun from his pocket. Officer Relic then drew and fired his service weapon, striking Dinkins, who was transported to Carolinas Medical Center for treatment."
• April 21: Police were called to a residence on Statesville Road to investigate a suspicious vehicle in the driveway. According to police reports, the driver of the car, Jason Chappell, was armed with a knife, and when officers Rodney Jackson and Lucas Rahal approached him, he attempted to drive away. Jackson was on the passenger side of the vehicle and Rahal went around to the driver's side. Jackson opened the passenger door to retrieve the closed, folded knife Chappell placed on the seat when officers told him to do so. When Jackson was leaning in to retrieve the knife, Chappell started the vehicle, put the car in reverse and immediately accelerated. Jackson was trapped in between the door and the vehicle while the vehicle was in motion. Chappell failed to obey officer's commands to stop and Jackson fired his service weapon once, striking Chappell.
• May 6: Police were called in to back up a Mecklenburg County ABC officer, Frank Lopez, who witnessed a man, Guy Manuel Cabral, drinking beer in a car in the parking lot of the Sam's Mart Shell station at 1920 Central Ave., according to police reports. CMPD officer Jenny Curlee arrived at 6:29 p.m. to assist Officer Lopez and positioned herself on the driver's side of the vehicle. Both officers gave verbal commands for Brian Jarod Howie to remove the keys from the ignition. Howie refused to comply with the verbal commands from either officer. Officer Lopez pulled his Taser and continued to request the driver to remove the keys from the ignition and to follow his directions. Curlee pulled her service pistol when Howie reached to his right side near the console area. Curlee fired her service pistol while Lopez fired his Taser at Howie who sustained a single gunshot wound to the arm and chest.