Darrel Stephens closed the door Friday on his nearly nine-year tenure as Charlotte’s police chief – a time of some success in crime reduction tainted recently by worrisome spikes in crime, the Charlotte Observer reports. Stephens plans to do some law enforcement consulting work and, possibly, teach. City Manager Curt Walton picked Rodney Monroe, the police chief in Richmond, Va., from a field of 46 applicants to succeed Stephens.
Stephens, 61, was the city administrator and former police chief in St. Petersburg, Fl., when Charlotte chose him to succeed Dennis Nowicki as police chief. Under his watch, the city’s violent crime rate fell 22 percent, and the department added 241 officers. But the number of new hires hasn’t kept up with Charlotte’s explosive growth – the city last year had 216 officers per 100,000 people, down from 245 officers in 2000. His focus on community policing has led local critics to charge that his department hasn’t been aggressive enough in fighting crime. Said Julie Eiselt, the founder of Neighbors for a Safer Charlotte: “We need somebody who is going to be very direct and hands-on in communicating with criminals, responding in a more face-to-face manner. I’m not sure that’s what Chief Stephens’ strength was.” Stephens has defended his department, saying it’s merely one part of a justice system that, through lack of state funding for courts and jails, turns repeat offenders loose to be re-arrested.