Tallying up the number of CMPD officers charged with crimes
Charlotte City Council tonight will inspect and decide whether to release the personnel file of fired Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Marcus Jackson. It would be an extraordinary move, but state laws allow it if it's essential to maintaining public confidence in the administration of city services. Jackson is among 17 CMPD officers charged with crimes over the past two years. In this report, WFAE's Lisa Miller examines what that says about the department. In 2008 and 2009, the seventeen CMPD officers were charged with crimes that include DWIs, public intoxication, assault on a female and conspiracy to sell and distribute cocaine. But the case of Marcus Jackson has received the most attention. He's accused of sexually assaulting five women he pulled over on traffic stops and one woman who called 911 to get protection from her boyfriend. This is what Police Chief Rodney Monroe had to say about Jackson's plight on December 30th when the first charges were filed against him. "To have one of our own involved in such a disgraceful activity is not only a violation of the public's trust and the misuse of authority as an officer, but a complete dishonor to this department and the officers who proudly uphold the integrity and honor that goes along with this badge," said Monroe. Yes, integrity and honor is what's expected of police officers. But lapses happen in police departments across the country. So what's the extent of the problem within the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department? Major Tim Danchess oversees CMPD's Internal Affairs department. "We're really talking about a very small percentage of actual employees involved in these offenses," says Danchess. "So while it's not acceptable and it looks horrible we do need to keep it in perspective." Danchess says CMPD has about 1,700 sworn officers. Of the seventeen charged with crimes in the past two years, about a third have been found guilty, 1 not guilty, and three cases are still pending. The rest have had the charges against them dropped - most of these are charges dealing with assault on a female. "It's hard to compare department to department unless you're looking at specific sized departments in like areas with like laws," says Danchess. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI, nor the International Association of Chiefs of Police track police misconduct numbers at a national level and many police departments don't release their figures. "So we turn to media reports of misconduct to try to find that information," says Seattle resident David Packman. Packman runs what he calls the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project for the website http://www.injusticeeverywhere.com/. He searches and filters these reports to document and try to understand police misconduct. The search engines have been rolling since April of last year. He cautions that his data is far from complete, but from what he can tell at this point: "Charlotte seems average in matter of transparency and in a matter of how much police misconduct we're seeing," says Packman. Raleigh's police department, roughly half the size of Charlotte's, has had three officers charged with crimes over the past two years. But Packman cautions not to judge a department solely by the high numbers of officers that go through the criminal justice system. "Sometimes it can be a good thing because that means the officials in that area take police misconduct a bit more seriously and are a bit more aggressive in dealing with police misconduct than in an area where they keep all their disciplinary and investigative processes secret internally," says Packman. Tonight city council will decide whether to let the public in on that process regarding former officer Marcus Jackson. But the City Attorney says City Manager Curt Walton has the final say and can still decide not to release the records. Walton has said several times it doesn't make sense to open them.