CHARLOTTE, NC (Cleve R. Wootson Jr./The Charlotte Observer) - The city is poised to hire an internal candidate to replace Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe, who announced his retirement earlier this week.
"We are leaning toward an internal promotion but are still determining that at this time," Charlotte city spokeswoman Sandy D'Elosua said in an email. City Manager Ron Carlee is working with the department's command staff and community leaders to find a chief, she said, but no timetable is set.
Perhaps hinting at his intentions earlier this week, Carlee said that Monroe has developed "a deep bench" in the department. Carlee will hire the next police chief, but he typically consults with council members about hires.
City Council member Claire Fallon, who heads the city's community safety committee, told the Observer on Thursday that she has urged Carlee to hire Kerr Putney, the longest-serving of the department's five deputy chiefs. He oversees training, the crime analysis division and the communications division.
Putney stood in for Monroe last July on a panel that explored police relations with residents in the wake of controversial shootings. He's also been the public face of the department when controversies arose about officer-involved shootings or police misconduct.
Police and others have expressed support – or at least respect – for Putney. Even those not ready to back one person say they'd prefer an internal hire.
"We'd like to see (an internal hire) because it's somebody that has seen firsthand what we have gone through for the last few years," said Todd Walther, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 9, which represents CMPD officers.
Julie Eiselt, a founding member of Neighbors for a Safer Charlotte, said the Police Department needed an external chief seven years ago when Monroe was hired.
Then, she said, "it was very polite and we didn't talk about crime. I think we've had that cultural shift where Monroe is in your face and a tough cop.
"The officers that stuck around and bought into that culture, I would be OK with one of them being hired," said Eiselt, who is running for City Council.
But council member Kenny Smith said it may still be beneficial to conduct a nationwide search. Such a search wouldn't exclude internal candidates, he said.
"I don't want to be boxed in either way," he said. "I don't want us to feel 100 percent compelled to make an internal hire. We have outstanding leadership at CMPD, but when it comes down to it, it's a big job; you've got to get it right."
Monroe beat out an internal candidate for the post and replaced an interim chief who was appointed while a national search was conducted.
This time, Monroe said, the hire should be from within.
"I've shared this with the city manager and some of our other leaders that ... if you believe that the direction that we are going and heading in is the right one, then I think that we have to give the current leadership an opportunity to show that they can continue that same vision," Monroe told reporters on Tuesday.
When pressed, Monroe didn't name a person he'd like to succeed him, saying only: "I've got five very capable and competent deputy chiefs."
The other four deputies:
? Doug Gallant, who oversees felony investigative units.
? Katrina Graue, who oversees CMPD's northern patrol divisions.
? Jeff Estes, who oversees patrol divisions in the south.
? Vicki Foster, who oversees the support services group, which includes the SWAT team, electronic monitoring of offenders and the property and evidence division.
Monroe has said that the department's success during the last seven years bolsters the case for an internal candidate. Crime has steadily declined. Last year, the department investigated 42 homicides, the lowest since police started keeping uniform crime statistics in the 1970s.
Carlee's support for an internal candidate could boost his standing with council members who are unhappy about Monroe's retirement. Some council members are concerned about a number of high-ranking city officials who have left during Carlee's tenure, with Monroe's departure considered the most significant.
Supporters of an internal hire also say the city would avoid the expense of a national search. And, they said, it would provide stability for the department as the trial of Officer Randall Kerrick begins.
Monroe is set to retire July 1, about three weeks before Kerrick's voluntary manslaughter trial is scheduled to begin.
Kerrick is accused of shooting an unarmed black man, Jonathan Ferrell, who was seeking help after crashing his car in northeast Mecklenburg.
The case has already sparked protests and demonstrations by the local NAACP and other civil-rights groups. Many officers, meanwhile, feel police leaders moved too quickly in charging Kerrick, who is white, less than a day after Ferrell was killed. Still, Charlotte has avoided large-scale civil unrest that has struck other cities, including Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., after officer-involved shootings.
"At this point, (an internal hire) is so important because of what's going on in the rest of the country," Fallon said. "So far it's been kept cool in Charlotte with cooler heads prevailing. ... I'd rather (hire) someone that the community knows."
Other council members declined to comment or could not be reached.
Fallon's preferred candidate, Putney, has been a deputy chief since 2007 and a police officer since 1992. His annual salary is $126,416.56. He's the lone holdover from former police Chief Darrel Stephens' top ranks.
Putney didn't respond to messages seeking comment.
In 2013, he was a finalist for the police chief job in Winston-Salem.
"I come with a track record of success," Putney said at a forum for the three finalists. "I am a crime fighter. I am a cop."
The Winston-Salem job ultimately went to Barry Rountree, an internal candidate who had been with the department since 1988.