CMPD officers to spend less time in court, more time on streets

by: Mark Becker Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - For police officers, more time in court means less time out on the streets, and that's why prosecutors are trying something new in a Mecklenburg County courtroom.

They're scheduling officers in courtroom 4150 only once a month instead of twice.

It's a pilot program official started just this month -- hoping to make the courts more efficient and police more effective.

What we're trying to do is be more efficient with the officers' time," says prosecutor Bruce Lillie, who worked with CMPD for six months to adjust officers' schedules for the pilot program.

Lillie said if it works, officers would spend less time in court and more out on the streets where they're needed.

"We'd like the officers to be out on the streets keeping our community safe, making arrests--interacting with folks, doing all the things officers are doing out there on their jobs," Lillie says.

CMPD said they like the idea as well, since it could also help cut overtime costs for officers who go to court during off-duty hours.

But a local watchdog group has doubts about the program.

"It all depends on what the context of efficiency is here," says Marcus Philemon, who started Mecklenburg County Courtwatch five years ago to track issues and cases in courts.

Philemon said he is concerned that bringing officers to court only once a month instead of twice could actually delay justice, since many cases are delayed, or continued, and victims are caught in the middle.

"So instead of the case being rescheduled in two weeks, it would be rescheduled in a month, and a lot of times that could be an inconvenience for the victim," Philemon says.

Lillie said courts and police plan to run the pilot program for several months, and sometime early in 2014 step back and decide if it is in fact more efficient. If so, they could bring the program to other courtrooms as well.