The black Ford Crown Victoria pulls out of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Law Enforcement center, its windows blacked out and the driver unseen; although unmarked it has all the indications of a police cruiser.
The Ford speeds up Charlotte’s Trade Street and rounds the corner heading towards 5th Street. A few seconds later the car parks in a blocked off lane marked with several signs that declare the area off limits except to Police cars. A dozen or so patrons crossing the street detour around the idling police car, as the barely visible occupant chats away on his cell phone.
The specially ordered new black Ford LTD, shipped in from California, belongs to Charlotte Police Chief Rodney Monroe and he's parked just a few feet away from the doors of the Time Warner Arena.
A minute later he steps briskly against the cold January air, darting inside the arena, he doesn’t have time to acknowledge the two patrolmen who are paid time and a ½ by the city to secure the area outside on this cold night, with a glace at his watch and he notes its almost tip off time.
This is where Charlotte's highest ranking police officer will spend the next four hours on "unofficial business" because Chief Monroe may be a scratch handicap golfer but he really likes basketball.
During the game he roams freely among the paid uniformed officers who are hired by the Bobcats organization to provide security for each game. But Chief Monroe is neither hired help, or on city business, nor does he buy a ticket, he's just there.
As the Bobcats struggle against the Lakers, Monroe walks along the sidelines, and roams the skyboxes, shaking hands with coaches and NBA stars, politicians and corporate leaders. He'll spend much of the game just inside the tunnel, somewhat out of the public view but rubbing shoulders with the NBA elite. After the game he stops to speak with a few of the dozen or so patrolmen and sergeants who work the game.
A couple hours later the Bobcats have sadly put another game in the "lost" column. Most of the crowd departed at the last call for beer, those who stayed are already drifting toward the doors at the final buzzer and Chief Monroe calls it a night.
Outside it has turned colder, the smell of city buses pushing up the grade toward Tryon Street fills the winter air. Other than the frequent wooosh of a passing bus, it is quiet tonight, just the way a police chief would like it.
His relationship with the men in uniform at the Bobcats Arena is tepid at best, in part because one of his many new directives, issued in September reduced the hours these policemen can work off duty from 58 hours to 32.
Despite the fact that most CMPD officers who work second jobs average only 28 hours per week, there was considerable outrage that the “new” chief would try to limit their earning potential.
Being a patrolman with a family in Charlotte means either you work a “secondary” job, or your family does without.
The list of changes put in place by Chief Monroe is long and in many cases these changes have disrupted for better or worse a culture that has been in place for many years. However, it is not unusual for a new Police Chief to put his mark on a department and most officers expected to see some change.
But change just for the sake of shaking things up, is unwelcome.
Gone is the open line of communication between the police chief and the officers in the field, in its place is a very small group who control access, and make recommendations to Chief Monroe.
It was this small group who floated the idea of limiting secondary job hours, to which later the Chief was surprised by the sudden uproar. Since the directive was put in place Chief Monroe has done nothing to rescind or modify the directive.
Detectives once assigned cars now must rely on a pool of cars, confusion runs rampant as often there are no cars to be found so detectives must work from a desk until a car is returned, and can continue their investigation.
Without the dialogue, morale at the department has fallen to a low that seems to reflect the economy.
While the open door policy of prior chiefs is gone, in its place there is Chief Monroe who shows up at nearly every major crime scene, and who considers himself as the principle media contact, while certainly more visible than his predecessors he is also very aloof.
Across town a young unwed mother, picks up her crying baby under the watchful eye of the baby's grandmother. The proud grandmother is Marvette Monroe and baby’s mother is Charlotte Police Chief Rodney Monroe's daughter and former Elon College student, Hollye.
Monroe and his wife have been married 27 years and Marvette Monroe has enjoyed a successful career in financial services and even served on several boards during her stay in Richmond. But she has kept a fairly low profile since arriving in Charlotte, in part due to her new role as grandmother.
Hidden from the public eye the Monroe’s enjoy a typical family life filled with worries and concerns for the future of their children. So it comes as no surprise that Chief Monroe would want the best for his grandson, even if that apparently means bending the rules to help his daughter's boyfriend and father of his grandson, David McCallum get a job with the Charlotte Police Department.
McCallum is considered a new hire. But most new hires don't start to collect a CMPD pay check until the next training class begins. So Chief Monroe has arranged for a civilian job for the time being.
Rumors abound and reports have surfaced that not only has McCallum been given the privilege of a “take home car” but that his Virginia Drivers license is suspended. It is unclear if he has a North Carolina license, yet he drives throughout Charlotte with the Chief’s blessing, and of course these rumors add to a sense of distrust among the CMPD rank and file.
But According to Channel 36 WNBC's Stuart Watson "Blog Rumor: CMPD Chief Monroe's "son-in-law" has suspended/revoked license. Truth: out-of-state license is valid." Which begs the next question aren't you supposed to have a North Carolina license within 90 days?
Charlotte's new Chief of Police may not yet be well liked around Charlotte but his son Brandon is popular and is making his own mark down in Georgia.
Currently attending Georgia Tech, Brandon is president of the Nu Mu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha a national fraternity. Brandon was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in the area until age 15, when Chief Monroe and his family moved to Macon, Georgia, there Brandon finished high school.
At Georgia Tech he is a 5th year Civil and Environmental Engineering Major and currently serves on the Student Alumni Association as well as the Allocations Committee.
Being the son of a Police Chief has its perks like free bullet proof vests and riot gear for all of your fraternity brothers to party with.
But it is not all chilling and partying at Georgia Tech, Brandon has interned with Prime Engineering, Inc and with Goldman Sachs in their Private Wealth Management Division. Brandon also serves on the Georgia Tech Student Foundation board of trustees and is Co-Finance Chair for the African American Student Union.
The Monroes also raised Stephanie Ridge whose mother died several years ago. Stephanie married Anthony Milton in April of 2006 and the couple now resides in the Washington area.
The Douglas Wilder Connection
In On May 30, 2004, former Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder announced his intention to run for Mayor of Richmond. Until 2003, the Richmond City Council chose the mayor from among its 9 members.
On November 2, 2004, Wilder received 79% of the vote (55,319 votes) to become the first directly elected Mayor of Richmond in sixty years. Upon winning the election, Wilder communicated his intentions of aggressively taking on corruption in the city government by issuing several ultimatums to the sitting City Council even before he took office.
In the cross hairs was Richmond's chief of Police Andre Parker, who left the post a month after Wilder won the election. Wilder held a surprising amount of disdain for Parker and made it clear he would replace him.
On February 7, 2005 Wilder's long time friend Rodney Monroe became Richmond's new police chief during a ceremony held on the campus of Virginia Union University.
Macon Left in the Dust
Monroe had spent the prior three years as police chief of Macon, Georgia a stint that left the city of Macon, dealing with a Federal investigation over the misuse of federal grant money.
Monroe dismissed concerns by pointing out that the grant was in place before he arrived and was administered by Kelly High-Foster, a police department finance officer under Monroe, and Albert Stokes, who was the department's point man for the Safe Schools Initiative. Both Foster and Stokes went with Monroe to Richmond.
Richmond Another Beginning
Monroe's Richmond swearing-in was hailed as a new beginning for Richmond by Wilder.
Wilder referred to Monroe's hiring as an important part in bringing about a new era in Richmond, saying, "This is a time of a new awakening, a new birth, something we can not only look to with pride, but point to with achievement."
Within months of Monroe's arrival Wilder would begin a campaign to have Monroe awarded a college degree from VCU.
And Chief Monroe would stand shoulder to shoulder with the Mayor as his honor tried to physically remove the Richmond School Board from City Hall. The show down came to a head on September 21, 2007 when Richmond Police officers under the direction of Chief Monroe surrounded city hall blocking access to the offices to board members and media. See: Monroe's Police Department Seals Off City Hall.
The school board dust up and Wilder's demise meant Monroe's days in Richmond were numbered.
In the end according to Richmond's WTVY "It's no coincidence that Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder and police Chief Rodney Monroe announced their departures practically on the same day.
Apparently, they could've held a joint press conference, since their decisions were tightly linked, according to political analyst Bob Holsworth, who has been in their inner circle.
Since Monroe took office in February 2005, the two men have been "joined pretty tightly together," Holsworth said. The mayor and chief had become personal friends and allies. As Wilder's decision not to run again took shape, Monroe firmed up his travel plans, telling Charlotte he'd take the job they had been offering him for months."
"I'm not seeking reelection, the chief and I have a very close relationship so consequently he's going to Charlotte," said Wilder.
Virginia Commonwealth University
Douglas Wilder serves on many boards and foundations associated with Virginia Commonwealth University. The University named its School of Government and Public Affairs in honor of L. Douglas Wilder in 2004. Wilder also serves as an adjunct faculty member at the school. The Virginia Union University library, Norfolk State University's performing arts center and a Hampton University dormitory is also named after Mr. Wilder. Wilder also received an Honorary Doctorate from Arizona State University in 2004.
It was Wilder who suggested that Monroe transfer to VCU and seek a Bachelor degree.
Monroe had attended the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Executive Institute, and he has taken several undergraduate college courses in criminal justice through the Phoenix on line University.
Richmond unlike Charlotte does not have its own police academy. Instead, local and state law enforcement agencies send recruits to VCU with Richmond holding classes at Virginia Union.
But Virginia Commonwealth University would give Monroe the credentials he has lacked to further his career.
Soon after Rodney Monroe began the interview process in Charlotte news began to leak out concerning his VCU degree.
In May 2008, an anonymous email known as the Harry Potter letter, led to an investigation that discovered VCU awarded an undergraduate degree to Chief Rodney Monroe after he received just 6 credits from the University, with the bulk of his credits taken through the online University of Phoenix and the FBI Academy.
On May 16, 2008 with the Rodney Monroe scandal unfolding Mayor Wilder announced he would not seek reelection.
"I would like to thank all of those who have supported me - from the business community to our regional colleagues to all of our citizens of every walk of life and stripe - for their continued encouragement and commitment,'' he wrote. "There is a new spirit within the city that we have turned the corner since 2005 and are reaching our potential to be all that we can be. We will continue to move our city forward, as we have done and there will be no interruption in our goals or our determination to so do."
When news of the Harry Potter email, the VCU investigation and questions about Chief Monroe's resume' became news, Charlotte officials considered the news unsubstantiated and pressed forward with naming Rodney Monroe to the position of Chief.
Meanwhile is Richmond the finger pointing began. See: Wilder, City Council At Odds Over Chief Monroe
On June 2, 2008 Mayor L. Douglas Wilder issued the following angry statement:
“It has been brought to my attention that there have been allegations about Chief Monroe’s degree from VCU. I have never responded to anonymous critics and would not be doing so now, other than to stand up for a good man.
“I know that Chief Monroe has done absolutely nothing but what was required of him by the officials at VCU and no official has said otherwise. He was personally recognized by the VCU President at his graduation last year who said that his was an example that others should follow in seeking to further their education.
“It is saddening to see one who has given so much to his community be attacked with smear and innuendo and possible illegal actions."
“This ridiculous nonsense should never have gone to this extent and those who have hidden behind anonymity should be held accountable. Stand up or Shut up!
“I say, ‘Hail to Our Chief,’ and I know the citizens of Richmond will be expecting the quickest and just resolution of this matter by VCU with appropriate commendation to our Chief.”
Six months later a report issued to Virginia Commonwealth’s accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges, noted that Rodney Monroe, now the chief of police for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, did not meet the commission’s 25-percent rule where 30 credit hours — or 25 percent — of a student’s undergraduate coursework must be completed on the campus of the college granting the degree.
Instead, Monroe was allowed to transfer a full 118 credit hours from the University of Phoenix and the FBI Academy toward the 120-credit requirement for graduation.
Monroe was awarded the degree in 2007, having only satisfied 15 of the 28 academic requirements needed to earn a degree in interdisciplinary studies, and that the degree could not have been properly awarded “unless this student had been afforded preferential treatment at the admissions, curriculum, and graduation stages of the student experience.”
After a thorough review of its degree-conferral practices, Virginia Commonwealth University concluded that only two of 15,000 undergraduate degrees were improperly awarded since 2003, one degree was awarded to Rodney Monroe the other was awarded posthumously.
Virginia Commonwealth maintains that its degree-conferral standards still meet accredited requirements, but may still be subject to sanctions if the commission finds that the school has not taken enough steps to prevent a recurring incident.
In the report, VCU admitted to making a total of 37 exceptions to university policy in granting an undergraduate degree to Monroe, unlike other cases of improperly awarded degrees, VCU did not rescind the degree.
Monroe, 51, was allowed to keep the degree because there is no policy that allows for revocation except for academic misconduct.
But the outrage continued with a long winded missive known as the David Baldacci Letter Baldacci is a graduate of VCU and New York Times Best Selling Author.
Heads Roll at VCU
The coordinator of the program through which Chief Monroe received his bachelor's degree says she argued from the start that he should have received his degree from the University of Phoenix, not Virginia Commonwealth University.
Linda L. Spinelli, who retired in May of 2008 as the degree investigation began, said that she objected from the moment she received Monroe's transcripts from her supervisor, Jon Steingass, who was then dean of University College.
"Immediately I recognized that although Mr. Monroe had plenty of acceptable transfer credits, he would need to earn 30 from VCU," said Spinelli, who was coordinator of the bachelor of interdisciplinary studies program.
She said she informed Steingass of the problem that same day.
But through his attorney, Steingass yesterday said he wasn't initially informed of Monroe's VCU credit deficiency. He also said he never personally gave Monroe's transcripts to Spinelli. "If [the investigators] have the transcripts, they ought to see whose fingerprints are on it," Richmond lawyer Jay J. Levit added.
Steingass resigned during the investigation into how Monroe was awarded a degree after receiving only six credit hours from VCU, when he should have taken 30 credit hours to fulfill VCU's residency requirement and its accreditation standards.
Spinelli described the chain of events that led to the degree in an account addressed to Dan Ream, president of VCU's faculty senate. Her account was sent anonymously to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and its contents were confirmed yesterday by Spinelli.
Read the full story at: Richmond Times-Dispatch.
In total, five high-ranking administrative officials resigned some vocally in protest of the investigation itself due to threats made against the tenure status of one professor if she did not cooperate and other high-pressure tactics.
Charlotte Welcomes the New Chief
Rodney D. Monroe was appointed Police Chief of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department on June 16, 2008 by City Manager Curt Walton. Chief Monroe now leads the largest municipal police department in the state of North Carolina with 1,650 sworn and 450 civilian members.
When Charlotte City Manager Curt Walton announced that Monroe would be hired after a five-month comprehensive search process he pointed out that Monroe was the ideal choice, beating out a canidate from Atlanta and one from within the Charlotte Police Department.
"Rodney Monroe personified every aspect of the ideal Police Chief especially as a strong communicator, said City Manager Curt Walton. "He also has an extraordinary passion for law enforcement and prevention that makes a community a better place to live."
Sgt. David Childress, president of the Richmond Coalition of Police, has few words about Chief Monroe's departure in short;Don't Let the Door …
But the first challenge of Chief Monroe was not a major crime spree, but events unfolding 100s of miles away on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. After many weeks of silence Charlotte’s new Police Chief spoke to reporters about the VCU investigation.
The full text of Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief Monroe addressing the VCU statements regarding his bogus degree here: The Charlotte Observer
Additional Reporting from The Charlotte Observer
Meanwhile the citizens of Charlotte, North Carolina wait and hope. They hope that Monroe can help stem the flood of crime that has over taken the once quiet southern center of financial power.
Yet questions remain, as to why a Police Department that passes over career officers for positions such as Major, Captain and Chief should they be without a four year college degree would offer the highest job to Monroe if his degree was in question.
Charlotte's City Manager responded to the news by stating to the nature of it being a “sad distraction” at this moment in time. And noted that there was no intention “what-so-ever addressing if Charlotte is going to take any actions” regarding the same.
Out of State lateral transfers into the Charlotte Police Department are covered under a strict set of rules, including a minimum of a 3 1/2 week training course in order to be a state certified law enforcement officer. Nearly nine months into the job and Chief Monroe has yet to complete basic training and become North Carolina certified.
Not a big deal for a bureaucrat, but if “hands on” law enforcement is really what Chief Monroe is about he better be certified or any of his actions in the field will come under fire from creative defense attorneys.
Furthermore, Chief Monroe is apparently being investigated as to why he reportedly broke the rules regarding City of Richmond tuition reimbursements to University of Phoenix and VCU. Allegedly he put his tuitions on a city credit card in full in advance of all classes. The rules say employees must front the monies for courses and be reimbursed up to a stated limit per course or semester upon successful completion, meaning probably earning a C or better.
It is general knowledge that Chief Monroe also slightly embellished his resume by stating his degree was in criminal justice, when in fact it was issued as an “interdisciplinary studies” or, a generic degree which is only supposed to be offered according to VCUs rules/guidelines if a student needs a curriculum NOT otherwise offered. Criminal Justice is a legitimate course of study at VCU and apparently that is what Monroe wanted to claim to have earned.
There are also considerable questions regarding the way Charlotte is now reporting property crimes. In the past a string of break-ins were reported case by case, address by address. A car broken into and a garage door pried open in the past would generate two police reports. Under the chief’s directive, officers are required to consolidate reports. A rash of car vandalism could be a dozen separate acts but might be reported as only one incident. This would cause the reported crime rate to plummet.
Rodney Monroe is either a very creative cheat, who was outed by "Harry Potter" yet managed to beat out several more qualified applicants or he's a very talented police chief.
In the end the only concern is how well are the citizens of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County being served?
The measure of success is not just a perceived reduction in reported crime, or cooking the books to show shocking drops in crime, as low morale and high turn over within the CMPD is just as costly and unatractive.
What will really determine if Chief Monroe's tenure is productive is how safe we feel after dark in our own neighborhoods.
We can only hope Chief Monroe lives up to his inflated resume' and the men and women of the CMPD discover a true leader, and not just a basketball fan.
The week after this post was made the Charlotte Observer ran a story (Cause of Big Dip in Crime Debated) telling of Charlotte's sharp decline in crime.
Chief Monroe as expected crediting his management style and increase patrol with more blue on the streets.
And his critics claiming he's cooking the books.
Odd Little Bits of Trivia
The majority of VCU is located at Monroe Park.
Monroe Park is a 7.5 acre landscaped park located 1 mile northwest of the Virginia State Capitol Building in Richmond, Virginia. It is named after James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States and not Chief Monroe
A favorite eatery located at the Monroe Park Campus is ironically called Rodney's.
VCU Police Chief Willie B. Fuller, was arrested last week and charged with trying to solicit sex with a minor via the internet.
Fuller claims a degree from VCU - the same kind of degree awarded to former Police Chief Rodney Monroe.
Unlike former Chief Monroe, who was given a VCU degree after taking just six credit hours there, Fuller earned all of his required credits at VCU, the source said.
Fuller's Facebook and MySpace pages reveal a police chief who, under his own name, wrote about his love of women and his appreciation for a song about strippers.
Chesterfield police allege Fuller, using the screen name hotcop2006, solicited sex from a police officer posing as a 14-year-old girl.