@NCCapitol

NC Senate budget bill could mean SBI shift

Posted May 30, 2011
Updated May 31, 2011

State Bureau of Investigation, SBI

— A provision in the proposed $19.4 billion state government spending plan by the North Carolina Senate could mean transferring the State Bureau of Investigation and its crime lab from the Department of Justice to a new Department of Public Safety.

The move is expected to come up for debate Tuesday as the chamber takes its first vote on the budget bill, which consolidates several law enforcement departments, including Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Crime Control and Public Safety, and Correction to the new public safety department to save money.

As a result, the justice department's budget would be cut approximately 70 percent, from $90 million to $25 million.

Chief Senate budget writer Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake, said the shift would also mean more efficiency in how the state's law enforcement departments run.

"With all the training for that, all the purchasing and human resources, contracts and so forth for all of law enforcement in the state, that's the recommendation. That's something we're (considering)," Stevens said Monday.

But many lawmakers and law enforcement officials say they’re not in favor of moving the SBI from the justice department.

"There's a lot of people who see the need for reorganization and want it changed," Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, said. "I just don't happen to be one of them."

Tillman said police departments and sheriff's offices across the state use the SBI for investigative help and laboratory services. Every law enforcement leader that he has heard from is against moving it.

"They're having a very good response now in turnaround time on the stuff they send to the labs, and they're afraid that changing that structure will hurt their operation, hurt the time to get their information back," Tillman said.

Politics are another concern.

The state attorney general, an independently elected official, heads the justice department. Under the current organization, if the bureau were to have to investigate a high-ranking state official, there's no conflict of interest.

But if the SBI moves, the new head would be a department secretary, a political appointee, which Attorney General Roy Cooper has said would put the bureau's freedom to investigate at "great risk."

"It's vital that the SBI remain independent so that agents have the freedom to investigate crime and corruption in all branches of government without undue pressure or influence," Cooper said.

Stevens said that special prosecutors could be brought in for corruption cases, if necessary, which is what happens at the federal level.

"I'm still open on the issue myself," Stevens said. "I think there's logic for leaving it and logic for moving it. That's why it needs a good discussion."

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  • Rebelyell55 May 31, 2011

    Cut the fat. What ever happens, they must make sure no corruption is presence. Cut the wasteful spending.

  • Retired07 May 31, 2011

    This will guarantee politics as usual! As lousy as recent performance has been from the SBI I can t imagine a string of politically correct croonies in charge is going to change anything different than the SHP over the last umpteen years. Change it, but PLEASE take the politicians out of the loop as much as possible. Politics within was a basic problem with the current SBI from which I retired and it was under a citizen elected attorney general. Don t compound the problem with a government appointed Cronnie in charge every 4 years or so!

  • RonnieR May 31, 2011

    dtarkenton, not many state departments don't have a LE agency. Control is best left with the agency whose laws they enforce.

  • pbjbeach May 31, 2011

    In my personal estimation that is just exactlly what needs to take place within the ncdot as it relates to the issues of waste fraud an abuse of the state taxpayers funding along with the potential issue of what i have seen an believe to be out right corruption within the ncdot as it relates to contractors payments for road issues there just is no longer any oversight protection an accountability of the states taxpayers funding taking place within the ncdot thank you

  • dtarkenton May 31, 2011

    Perhaps the DMV Enforcement and Theft Bureau should also be moved to the new Department of Public Safety to consolidate law enforcement functions. Neither the Attorney General nor the DMV should have their own police forces, where there is too much opportunity for abuse and oversight failures.

  • silencedogood May 31, 2011

    Good!

  • woodrowboyd2 May 30, 2011

    Maybe they should just close it.