Transfer of SBI will strengthen agency, Perry says

Posted September 4, 2014
Updated September 8, 2014

— Backers of a recent change in oversight of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation say the move was aimed at saving the state money and being more efficient.

State Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry said Thursday that it will also strengthen the agency's ability to focus on intelligence-driven law enforcement that helps prevent major crimes across the state.

"The overall mission of the SBI will be tweaked a bit, with the No. 1 priority being homeland security – international terrorism and domestic terrorism," Perry said. "It has to be that way. The states are now at the forefront of homeland security."

Up until last month, the SBI was under the administration of the Department of Justice, which is overseen by the attorney general, but a provision in the state budget moved it into the Department of Public Safety, which is a cabinet agency headed by a gubernatorial appointee.

Some, including Attorney General Roy Cooper, have criticized the move, saying they're concerned that a governor would have influence over officers tasked with investigating state government corruption.

But Perry says the SBI director – not the governor – decides what to investigate and that the agency still maintains its independence. DPS' role is managing the SBI's budget and mission.

"The people (of North Carolina) certainly need to realize that, in law enforcement, you don't work in a vacuum," he said. "The agents develop the cases and bring it to a district attorney in a certain district. Those DAs are Republicans and Democrats across the state, so those cases are overseen by respective prosecutors and not the governor."

What the move does do, he said, is administratively house the SBI with other law enforcement agencies, such as the State Highway Patrol and Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement, to make it easier for them to share and analyze intelligence from field officers.

"We can be in the same districts and the same offices sharing intelligence and just having more immediate access to each other as opposed to what in the past was administrative, if not bureaucratic, walls between us," Perry said. "Now that we're together, I think we're going to have a higher accountability to prevent as well as to prosecute."

Another core function of the agency – known best for the help it gives local law enforcement agencies – is work on violent crimes and major offenders.

"We're going to elevate the SBI to be more aggressive with other Department of Public Safety assets and the federal government to combat the growing gang problem in this state, in this country, inside our prisons."


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  • Rebelyell55 Sep 10, 2014

    Another useless law that'll end up costing the tax payers more money. Why are they pushing NC backward? It seem that they continue to try and fix things that aren't broken and avoild the serious issues facing NC.

  • Matt Wood Sep 8, 2014
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    All hail the word police! smh

    Semantics aside, my point still stands.

  • disgusted2010 Sep 8, 2014

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    You can paint it any way you want, but you are still WRONG.

  • Matt Wood Sep 8, 2014
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    Actually, the phrase "separation of powers" is a principle (and just generally a good idea) that applies beyond just constitutional law. Heck, in business it's used all the time to mean exactly what I said - ensuring that certain duties are split up among different offices to avoid impropriety (both perceived and realized).

  • miseem Sep 6, 2014

    But Perry says the SBI director – not the governor – decides what to investigate and that the agency still maintains its independence.

    Except that the SBI director serves at the will of the governor now. So any disputes with the governor about handling investigations may find us with a new SBI director. Immediately. Sort of brings the independence thing into question.

  • Larry Lynch Sep 5, 2014
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    for the record the NC SHERIFFS ASSOCIATION are anti- freedom and are on record for being anti gun ownership. they fought hard last yr to block you- the free north carolinain to enjoy your CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to own a pistol without burdensome and draconian police checks. course your local sheriff aint gonna tell you that-- but I will tell you the truth.

  • Grand Union Sep 5, 2014

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    Sheriffs can believe what they like but when push come to shove, the State will win.

  • dirtydozen431 Sep 5, 2014

    The NC Sheriffs Association will never allow a state police . Sheriffs tolerate the SHP and SBI because they can call on them when needed. A Sheriff believes that they are the chief law enforcement officer in their respective county.

  • disgusted2010 Sep 5, 2014

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    There is no separation of powers issue here. Separation of powers speaks to the executive, judicial and legislative branches. Both the governor and Attorney General perform Executive duties. Separation of powers speaks to the federal government and has been adopted by the states. NC is one of those states that chooses to independently elect some heads of traditional executive branch agencies: Agriculture, Labor, Insurance, etc. At the federal level, and in most states, these agency heads are appointed by the president/governor.

  • Matt Wood Sep 5, 2014
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    Yes, it is more efficient, but there's this standard called "separation of powers" that is more important. It is never a good idea to allow an agency to be able to audit/investigate it's own misdeeds. That's why SBI was set up under a separate office - to avoid the influence of the leadership of the agencies it is meant to investigate.

    A much better resolution would have been to move the pieces that law enforcement needs to operate more effectively (for example, blood analysis) to DPS and then create a new office under the attorney general specifically for the pieces that are more about investigating other State agencies, with duties for investigating the Attorney General applied to the State Auditor. That way, the powers are separated among 3 different positions elected by the People.