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'Yeah, I Took That Shot, Too.' CMPD Chief Putney Blasts Chief Magistrate, Media

CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said Wednesday he believes a rise in violent crime is to due a more lenient bail policy in Mecklenburg County.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney on Thursday criticized recent changes to bail policy in Mecklenburg County, in which bail minimums have been reduced or eliminated, and more people have been released from jail with electronic monitoring.

During a news conference, CMPD invited activist Marcus Philemon of Judicial Watch to speak. Judicial Watch lobbies for longer sentences and is opposed to the county's bail policies, which have resulted in more defendants being issued summons instead of being arrested.

Credit WFAE

Philemon criticized Chief District Judge Regan Miller and Chief Magistrate Khalif Rhodes, who have implemented the changes.

"We need those who are creating the problem to change the problem," Philemon said.

Putney was asked if he agreed with Philemon's criticism of Miller and Rhodes.

Putney said, "the system doesn't have equal accountability."

He added: "There is some accountability that all people in the justice system need to be held to - a certain standard. And you can plug in any name. They all qualify as far as I'm concerned."

Putney said he has reached out to Miller and Rhodes and has not heard back.

Putney said he believes the new bail policy, as well as electronic monitoring, is related to the increase in violent crime.

"There is a clear indication," he said.

Putney said people with electronic monitoring "have become more brazen."

He said CMPD has made reforms in the past two years, and said all parts of the criminal justice system should be scrutinized.

He also criticized the media.

"I just pose the question, who is holding accountable every other step in the justice process," Putney said. "I don't have to point fingers. You should follow the facts. Just like we do in any investigation. The challenge though - that would be journalism. Not simple reporting. Yeah, I took that shot, too."

Miller and Rhodes have no comment, according to Pam Escobar, an outreach administrator with the Mecklenburg courthouse.

Escobar pointed to a study earlier this year by the nonprofit think tank MDRC, which said that Mecklenburg’s new pre-trail release program did not  affect the percentages of defendants who showed up to court or who were charged with new crimes while waiting for their cases to be resolved. 

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.