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Law enforcement authorities pan proposed SBI shift

Posted May 20, 2013

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— North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and a number of local law enforcement officials from across the state on Monday criticized a Senate proposal to restructure the State Bureau of Investigation.

The Senate budget plan rolled out Sunday night calls for moving most of the SBI from the Department of Justice and placing it under the control of the Department of Public Safety, which is under the control of Gov. Pat McCrory.

"This is bad for law enforcement, public safety and the fight against public corruption," Cooper said in a news conference, where he was flanked by more than a dozen police chiefs, sheriffs and district attorneys.

The SBI has investigated more than 500 public officials accused of corruption over the last decade, Cooper said, citing the administrations of former Govs. Mike Easley and Beverly Perdue, former House Speaker Jim Black and other lawmakers. He also noted that DPS divisions such as the State Highway Patrol and Department of Correction have also been the targets of corruption investigations, as have other agencies under the governor's control.

"Prosecutors, courts and the public have relied on these investigations because of the SBI's independence," he said. "No matter who controls the state legislature, the Governor's Office or the Attorney General's Office, this system works best."

Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said the SBI is the only state law enforcement agency outside DPS, so leaving it in the DOJ "doesn't make sense in the scheme of how law enforcement is organized otherwise."

State Bureau of Investigation, SBI McCrory, DPS not keen on moving SBI

AG Roy Cooper speaks out against proposed SBI move Law enforcement officials speak against proposed SBI move

"Coordination among law enforcement agencies is vital, and housing them within one agency is common sense," Brown said. "It simply does not make sense for our state's top attorney to supervise the SBI, just like it wouldn't make sense for your local district attorney to supervise your sheriff or police."

The Senate plan does leave an SBI unit in the Attorney General's Office to investigate corruption – the state crime lab also would remain in DOJ – but Cooper said it amounts to only four or five agents out of the more than 420 who now work for the agency.

"(That) is a fig leaf that will severely cripple the fight against public corruption," he said, noting agents need to work together statewide on complex financial and political cases.

"Putting the SBI under any governor's administration increases the risk that corruption and cover-up occur with impunity," he said.

McCrory doesn't appear to share the Senate's belief that the switch is needed.

"An argument has yet to be presented to the governor as to why the transfer of the SBI is necessary," spokeswoman Kim Genardo said. "The governor's proposed budget does not ask for the move. We have other operational priorities we need to fix."

Likewise, DPS questions the move.

"The SBI transfer to Public Safety is not something that our agency asked for or lobbied for," DPS spokeswoman Pamela Walker said. "While we are pleased that many of the Senate budget proposals are in alignment with the governor’s budget proposals for Public Safety, there are several areas, like the SBI transfer, that are not in alignment and we feel need further review."

The North Carolina Sheriff's Association and the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police also oppose shifting the SBI.

"We see no need to change to change the structure or responsibilities of the organization," said Apex Police Chief John Letteney, who is president of the Association of Chiefs of Police. "It is quite possible that such a move could create a more costly and bureaucratic process."

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said lawmakers should look to increase funding to the state crime lab instead of trying to reorganize the SBI.

"If (the idea) is to save money, that's a noble goal, but we've got to make the lab workable," Willoughby said. "We're waiting months to get drug chemistry back. We're waiting months to get DNA results back, and it's because our lab isn't properly funded."

The crime lab has come under scrutiny in recent years because of questionable practices by evidence analysts. Christine Mumma, director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, which has pushed for an independent crime lab outside the control of law enforcement, said the Senate proposal doesn't achieve that.

"It doesn't go far enough," Mumma said.

Willoughby and other prosecutors say the plan is misguided and should be abandoned.

"Breaking up the SBI and sending the field agents and financial crimes in one direction and keeping the lab in another direction just seems like terrible management to me," he said. "This to me appears to be a Washington-style solution, where we're in search of a problem to make it fit but there is not a problem."

89 Comments

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  • wa4mjf May 21, 1:52 p.m.

    leo-nc, all statewide LE agencies have the same territorial jurisdiction, it is the subject matter jurisdiction that changes
    with each agency. In the executive branch, only ALE agents have the power of a peace officer generally. Only other is in the Judicial Branches' Supreme Court/Appeals Court Marshals and their deputies. The Legislative Branch have that power locally and in any part of the State that their official duties carry them.

  • leo-nc May 21, 12:19 p.m.

    Being apart of the DOPS corruption and "Good Ole Boy" system is in your job discription. None of the SBI agents agree with this move. Its giving one sector too much power."

    Really? What is your proof? I'm sure many of the SBI agents don't agree with the move. They have a power thing over there that they enjoy. Keeping the same checks and balances on them as the rest of the other agencies makes sense. I don't know if you realize how much money it would save by moving them but quite a bit What have the SBI agents you've talked to say? The ones I know have agreed with it and think it should be consolidated. I have yet to meet one that didn't but we shall see. This is only a proposal and has a long way to go before becoming law. The good ole boy system you speak of doesn't exist. It's a myth except in a very small amount of cases.

  • Civil4Mind May 21, 11:46 a.m.

    Being apart of the DOPS corruption and "Good Ole Boy" system is in your job discription. None of the SBI agents agree with this move. Its giving one sector too much power.

  • leo-nc May 21, 11:45 a.m.

    sorry for all of the posts but as one person said, it's also about sharing information. Agencies on the State level don't share information very well which can sometimes makes things difficult. It's like they see each other as adversaries.

  • leo-nc May 21, 11:44 a.m.

    "No its not. The Senate won't have any more control over the SBI if this occurs than they do now. Dept of Public Safety falls more under the Governor's office , not the legislature. Its about consolidating agencies and getting rid of a LOT of duplication that exists now."

    Exactly. It also struck me as odd that ALE has more subject matter and territorial jurisdiction then any other agency in the state including the SBI. By consolidating and combining assets from the Highway Patrol, DOC, SBI, ALE and others, you streamline and you can keep your checks and balances in place. The only thing I would suggest is leaving more agents over on the DOJ side so the investigations that happen internally can run more efficiently.

  • leo-nc May 21, 11:42 a.m.

    It's not a foreign concept.... Last time I checked, the FBI was under the US Attorney General and the FBI was not consolidated with other agencies when the Dept of Homeland Security was established.-----quoted

    I agree but that is at the federal level... They also have a lot more money then we do. Even though the federal budget is a mess too, it's not like what we are going through on the state level. I'm not saying either one is right or wrong. I just know that the states I've lived with a State Police Model such as Virginia CT and others, it has worked very well with a good neutral system of checks and balances. Putting them under one umbrella makes good sense in my opinion. I understand the Sheriff's Association will be running scared if it happens, but corruption cases will get the attention they need just like they always have. You cannot please everyone, but my opinion is that we can save money and move to a more streamlined model by doing what the proposal says.

  • psullyunc May 21, 9:14 a.m.

    Actually there were many problems with 9/11 and information sharing prior to 9/11. That's why the agencies (except FBI and a few others) were consolidated AFTER 9/11. Much improvement has been made post 9/11 at national and state/local levels to share information. My purpose of the post was to let folks know that its not a foreign concept for LEO to be under the AG. But since it appears that parties want to be "all or nothing" these days and going along with the idea that all law enforcement should be consolidated... Then lets just get rid of local municipalities (Sheriff/City/etc) and put those departments under the Governor too....

  • btneast May 21, 8:18 a.m.

    Didn't take the state senate long to make a run at being able to censor law enforcement to suit Tea Party interests. There may be, or have been, some corruption under the present system, but it's GUARANTEED to be in play if this is allowed to pass.

    No its not. The Senate won't have any more control over the SBI if this occurs than they do now. Dept of Public Safety falls more under the Governor's office , not the legislature. Its about consolidating agencies and getting rid of a LOT of duplication that exists now.

  • btneast May 21, 8:15 a.m.

    the FBI was under the US Attorney General and the FBI was not consolidated with other agencies

    You just supported the argument to consolidate all LE....the FBI being separate from other agencies was shown to be a problem with past disasters (9/11 in particular)

  • stymieindurham May 21, 8:14 a.m.

    "It is quite possible . . . ", "Putting the SBI under any governor's administration increases the risk . . ."
    " . . . lawmakers should look to increase funding . .. ", "North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence . ."
    ============================================================
    ==
    Democrat catch phrases and groups. Hey Roy!!! If the lab isn't functioning properly or efficiently, isn't this something YOU should have straightened out "years" ago?!!!

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