This election marks the first time since 1975 that Peter Gilchrist will not be the District Attorney for Mecklenburg County. Instead, we have two candidates–Republican Andrew Murray and Democrat Michael Barnes–vying to be the next D.A.

A debate between the two at the Charlotte School of Law School last week posed an interesting question: Is the District Attorney the “top cop?” Murray argues no, while Barnes, in a round-about way, says yes.

From a WFAE transcript:

Murray: To call yourself the Top Cop as the head prosecutor is a fundamental misunderstanding of our rules of justice of our system. Our prosecutor should be nowhere close to the Top Cop. We have a Top Cop. His name is Rodney Monroe. His job is to make certain his individuals are trained and equipped to investigate, to arrest, to bring quality cases to the prosecutor, and that’s where it ends.

Barnes: I am not interested in protecting criminals. I have talked to Chief Monroe and I have talked to the other chiefs as I have mentioned and they very much understand and desire to have a collaboration where the DA’s office is working with them to make sure that the cases are strong. They are not saying ‘We don’t want you to have anything to do with us, we want to work with you.’ They want to work with the DA’s office in a healthy way. I’ve also talked to detectives who say they want to have a strong relationship with the DA’s office so that when they bring the case in the case is made stronger because of that collaboration, not necessarily taken apart. So, for my opponent to say that it is not appropriate that the DA have a good relationship with the…

Women in audience: He didn’t say that! He didn’t say that!

Barnes: …prosecutor to such a degree that he becomes the Top Cop, theoretically speaking, I think, is a mistake. My job as your DA is to protect the people of this county from people who are breaking the law, and that’s what I’ll do.