RALEIGH, N.C. — A group representing the interests of Raleigh police officers wants city leaders to choose the next police chief based not only on the interests of the community but also on the rank-and-file.
Former Chief Jane Perlov, who resigned in March to head security for Bank of America, is credited with decentralizing the police department into six districts to address public-safety needs and crime prevention.
No one disagrees that she had a big impact on the Raleigh Police Department. But a recent letter from the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association's Raleigh-Wake Chapter to the editor of The News & Observer newspaper casts Perlov's legacy in a negative light.
"Chief Perlov was attentive to the citizens while her lack of attention to her officers compromised their safety," chapter President Randy Miller wrote.
John Midgette, executive director of the Police Benevolent Association, said the district-policing system caused the department to be dangerously understaffed and has resulted in low morale. Another couple of hundred officers are needed for the system, he said.
"You had officers who were overworked," Midgette said. "Safety was compromised, and nothing was ever done to address the manpower shortage that not only plagued the system from the beginning, but continues to."
The Raleigh Police Department had no reaction Wednesday, and WRAL was unable to reach Perlov, for comment.
But Rick Armstrong, president of the Raleigh Police Protective Association, which represents more than 300 officers, said Perlov always had an open line of communication with her officers.
He also said that understaffing at the police department has been a problem for the past 20 years and that Perlov, overall, did a great job during her five-year tenure.
City Councilman Philip Isley said Perlove was just what the city needed and called Perlov's accomplishments as police chief "nothing short of remarkable."
Before Perlov became police chief in September 2001, the city had seen more than 18,000 major crimes such as rape, assault and murder in 1999 and more than 19,000 in 2000. By 2006, at the end of Perlov's tenure, that number had dropped about 30 percent to 14,877.
"Police chiefs, just like city managers, I'm sure, don't satisfy everyone," City Manager Russell Allen said.
Isley did agree that the next police chief needs to address any lingering morale issues.
"That is a concern of mine," Isley said. "I have heard at various times an undercurrent of morale issues."
Allen, who is conducting a nationwide search for Perlov's replacement, said Wednesday he has narrowed the list of possible replacements to about six to eight candidates and that he plans to bring three to five to a public forum for public input.
There is no time frame yet for that process, however.