CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County Chief Magistrate Khalif Rhodes announced his resignation Friday following months of criticism over the county's new, more lenient bail policy he helped create.
After two years on the job, Rhodes said he plans on going back into private practice, but not as a result of community reaction.
"My decision was made in April," Rhodes said.
Rhodes said he planned on his resignation taking effect in July, but when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney and others criticized the release of violent repeat offenders, it inspired him to stick around for a couple more months. During that extra time, he said he worked to address the chief's public safety concerns and give CMPD a seat at the table.
"Even though I won't be there anymore, at least he'll be in that room and when those decisions are occurring, he won't hear about it second-hand," Rhodes said. "That communication piece was clearly missing between the judicial branch and law enforcement."
After remaining silent publicly during the controversy, Rhodes is defending the new bail policy as he prepares to leave office.
"I knew what we were doing was right. It was a culture shift," he said. "We had an uphill battle and it may have been a little bit steeper climb that I anticipated for sure."
The new system makes it easier for some defendants to get out of jail. The policy now requires judges to rely on risk assessments to determine who should post bond.
"That system that we have in place is better than what we had in the past, which was my gut," he said.
Critics, including bondsman Chad Lewis and Char-Meck Court Watch spokesperson Marcus Philemon, welcomed the news of Rhodes' resignation.
"His bail policies are making Charlotte dangerous," Lewis said.
"Absolutely (I'm relieved)," Philemon said. "And so should anyone else who could be a potential victim in Mecklenburg County."
Still, the outgoing chief magistrate did not take any parting shots.
"To the critics I would say it's not an easy job to do," Rhodes said. "It's not something I take lightly."
He's convinced the bail policy will keep the public safe and will result in a fairer justice system.
"I think we're all trying to figure out what will work," he said. "I think we all want the very same thing."
Rhodes' last day will be September 13.