SBI should remain independent, say AG and law enforcement
Release date: 5/20/2013
Sheriffs, Chiefs of Police and District Attorneys oppose proposal to move SBI under executive branch
Raleigh: Moving the State Bureau of Investigation would compromise its independence and jeopardize its quick response to local safety concerns, Attorney General Roy Cooper and law enforcement from across the state said Monday.
A North Carolina Senate budget proposal issued late Sunday would remove most of the SBI from the NC Department of Justice and place it in the NC Department of Public Safety, an executive branch agency under the Governor.
“For over 75 years, the SBI has provided a check on power and no matter who controls the state Legislature, the Governor’s office or the Attorney General’s office, this system works best,” Cooper said. “Putting the SBI under any Governor’s administration increases the risk that corruption and cover up occur with impunity.”
Cooper called the Senate’s plan to keep four or five people in the Attorney General’s Office to handle public corruption cases a “fig leaf” to cover the move away from independence that would severely cripple investigations that typically include agents from several parts of the SBI. Over the past decade, SBI agents have investigated more than 500 public officials, including the past two governors’ administrations, a House speaker, legislators, the Department of Public Safety which includes the Highway Patrol, Corrections and Juvenile Justice, and other Executive Branch agencies.
Cooper stood with more than a dozen Sheriffs, Chiefs of Police, District Attorneys and other local law enforcement officers to oppose the move at a news conference this morning.
“The SBI comes in with an attitude that says, ‘We’re here to help,’” said Apex Chief of Police John Letteney, head of the NC Association of Chiefs of Police. “They’re able to quickly respond to the needs of police across the state.”
Letteney noted that moving the SBI could jeopardize the quick response police have come to depend on from the SBI.
“The current structure provides the quick response that is so much needed by local Sheriffs to address emergent trends,” said Sheriff Michael L. Welch of Caswell County, who also said that the NC Sheriffs’ Association opposes moving the SBI. “Throughout my career, I’ve had the fortunate experience to be able to call upon the SBI and receive a quick response, expertise and technology.”
“The best thing to do is keep the SBI where it is independent and we have confidence in the work that it does,” said Colon Willoughby, District Attorney for Wake County, who has prosecuted many public corruption cases investigated by the SBI. “No one is putting their thumb on the scales to influence how an investigation turns out.”
Willoughby noted that many SBI investigations over the past years have led back to executive branch agencies under the Governor, including the Department of Public Safety.
Media contact: Noelle Talley (919) 716-6413