Under the Dome

Cooper: Would review SBI’s independence if elected

Roy Cooper on the SBI

Roy Cooper, Attorney General and Democratic candidate for Governor, discusses how he thinks the State Bureau of Investigation should be handled in the future. Cooper met with the News & Observer's Editorial Board, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016.
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Roy Cooper, Attorney General and Democratic candidate for Governor, discusses how he thinks the State Bureau of Investigation should be handled in the future. Cooper met with the News & Observer's Editorial Board, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016.

Last year Attorney General Roy Cooper strongly opposed the legislature’s decision to transfer control of the State Bureau of Investigation from his Justice Department to Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration.

But what if Cooper was elected governor, and the new attorney general was Republican state Sen. Buck Newton? Where would he want the agency to be then?

It depends.

Cooper told N&O editors and reporters on Tuesday that he would have to assess how the move has worked out, and get feedback from its new director, Bob Schurmeier, a former Charlotte police officer and security consultant.

Cooper’s opposition to the move last year was based on his concern that the independence of the SBI could be compromised, especially in public corruption investigations. In response, the General Assembly established an eight-year term to ensure an individual director is not accountable to any one governor.

“I want to talk to the director to see what kind of influence may or may not have occurred,” Cooper said in the editorial board meeting. “I think you have to do an assessment.”

The attorney general said law enforcement and prosecutors didn’t support the move at the time, adding it was only favored by the governor and legislative leaders.

Cooper said the move took a long time and was “very disruptive” to law enforcement.

McCrory’s campaign spokesman, Ricky Diaz, responded by pointing out that the governor has received the endorsements of the three largest law enforcement associations in the state.

“In 16 years as North Carolina's chief law enforcement officer, Roy Cooper did nothing to fix problems at the state crime lab, which have made it harder for law enforcement to do their job to put rapists and murderers behind bars,” Diaz said by email. “And unlike Roy Cooper who hired political appointees with no professional experience to lead the SBI and lab, Governor McCrory has hired a law enforcement professional to ensure the agency remains free of politics and independent.”

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO

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