Rodney Monroe, who took over today as Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief, comes to the nation’s 20th-largest city at 51 with street smarts and political savvy that made him popular – and effective – in cities where he has served as chief, reports the Charlotte Observer. Over 29 years, he has thrived in politically charged governments with powerful personalities – including former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry and former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder, now Richmond’s mayor. He is equally at home in living rooms of average citizens and on the streets talking with drug dealers and gangs. Monroe arrives in Charlotte at a time when residents’ relationships with police are strained. A spike this spring in violent and property crime has people demanding action. A series of police shootings has stirred suspicion and drawn attention from civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, who came to town last week to challenge the investigation of a fatal shooting.
Monroe faced similar challenges when he became chief in Richmond, Va., and in Macon, Ga. He reorganized both departments and put more officers on the streets. Crime dropped. Public confidence grew. Those who know him best say Monroe’s forceful style can alienate command staff. After reviewing Monroe’s career, the Observer says he will keep the best of former Chief Darrel Stephens’ community policing, but will push officers to engage more residents in fighting crime. Monroe promises “a sense of urgency” and a steady flow of information about crimes, about trends, about the department’s performance. He says: “The public needs to know we’re going to be forthright with them, even if there are some things we do not do well.”