CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — Are tracking devices an effective way to monitor criminals released from jail or a revolving door for crime?
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department is pressing for changes to the Electronic Monitoring Program (E.M.), which allows suspects charged with a crime to be released from jail with an ankle monitor, while awaiting trial.
Officers say too many people are losing their lives and being victimized by violent repeat offenders who are awaiting trial while wearing the ankle monitors.
Chief Kerr Putney says accountability is needed across the justice system.
“I’m going to have accountability beyond the police and I’m going to stake everything in my existence on that because if you’re only going to hold police accountable then you’re not going to have a city that’s as safe as it could be,” Chief Putney said.
Putney says he’s tired of the violence and wants equal accountability, which according to him, doesn’t exist right now. He characterized the program as an excuse to let more people out of jail and said it’s not a tool for accountability.
“What I want is that to be a last resort, meaning, if you’ve committed violence, if you’ve tried to kill somebody electronic monitoring should not even be an option. You should not be on the streets so you can kill again.”
According to CMPD, 252 people with ankle monitors have had their bonds revoked, 59 people have cut off their monitors with only 40 re-arrested and 20 homicide suspects given ankle monitors while out on bond awaiting trial this year.
“We see people accused of robbery, burglary, domestic violence and gun related charges on electronic monitoring,” one CMPD sergeant who heads the Electronic Monitoring Program said.
Putney said the program was initiated to assist indigent suspects who couldn’t afford to pay bond for non-violent offenses versus those who committed the same crimes and were financially capable of posting bond. He says the program has since expanded allowing violent criminals to be released without a secured bond.
“I don’t see E.M. as a role for police. However, if we don’t at least have that then crime goes and people do things and I can’t even find out who the suspects are. So I’m not saying E.M. is totally broken. I’m saying, it’s being misused,” said Putney.
Marcus Philemon with CharMeck Court Watch, took to the podium during the press briefing. Philemon said problems with the electronic monitoring program are due to bad policy, lack of common sense, and poor leadership.
In February Andy Garcia was arrested for breaking into a car and attacking people with a baseball bat who tried to stop him. He was released without bond and issued an ankle monitor.
“While out on electronic monitoring, just two weeks ago, he (Garcia) was arrested for his involvement in the murder of 17-year-old Alicia Johnson,” the Sergeant said.
On a daily basis CMPD monitors 400 people. Last year, they said two suspects were charged with murder and 25 committed robberies while wearing ankle monitors.
Putney said court officials need to be held accountable for their decision to release suspects accused of violent crimes who re-offend while being monitored. He says he reached out to Chief Administrative Court Judge Reagan Miller earlier this week to discuss the program, but hasn’t heard back.
“You know what, you hold the police accountable, we want that same level of accountability and quote-unquote level of transparency too. That’s what I’d like to hear. And then, have them stand by every decision they make based on the rule of law,” said Putney.
FOX 46 also reached out to Judge Miller and to the Chief Magistrate Khalif Rhodes. So far, we have not heard back.