Raleigh, N.C. — State lawmakers are considering pulling the State Bureau of Investigation from the North Carolina Department of Justice and moving it to the Department of Public Safety.
The SBI has been part of the Justice Department for 75 years, and
Such a move would boost the power of DPS Secretary Kieran Shanahan, a Republican appointee of Gov. Pat McCrory, at the expense of Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, whose office now oversees the SBI.
"It is a bad public policy idea," Cooper said Friday. "It is critically important that the SBI remain independent and autonomous under an independently elected attorney general."
He pointed to recent SBI investigations into the campaign finances of former Govs. Mike Easley and Beverly Perdue.
Republican legislative leaders haven't publicly discussed a potential SBI shift, but Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, confirms that the idea is being discussed within the halls of the Legislative Building.
Daughtry said he said he's not yet convinced it's a good idea, echoing Cooper's call for SBI independence.
"If there are reasons and good reasons to do it, to move it, I want to hear it," he said.
The North Carolina Sheriff's Association also opposes moving the SBI.
Advocates say folding the SBI into DPS, which already includes the State Highway Patrol and the Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement, would promote efficiency.
The idea also surfaced in a draft Senate budget two years ago, when various departments were consolidated to streamline state government operations.
Shanahan said in a statement that he wants to focus on those consolidations in his department before he considers anything else.
"I think saving money is always important to taxpayers and that would be one consideration, but I don't want it to be the only consideration," Daughtry said.
Critics question the politics behind the idea.
"I don't want to assume anyone's motives at this point," Cooper said. "We don't need to be fighting about this. We need to be fighting criminals."
"I think our deliberations should be based on policy and not politics," Daughtry said.