Citizens share their thoughts on next police chief

Citizens provide their input for the next police chief.

Citizens share their thoughts on next police chief
November 17
13:55 2022

Next month Chief Catrina Thompson of the Winston-Salem Police Department (WSPD) will officially retire. With a national search currently underway to find her replacement, earlier this week the Coalition for Accountability and Transparency invited the public to share their input on the hiring process and characteristics they would like to see in the next chief. 

Thompson spent her entire career with the Winston-Salem Police Department. A native of Detroit, she joined the local police department in 1994. She has served in the Patrol Division, Recruiting Unit, Training Division and the Criminal Investigations Division. She also served as one of the departmental commanders of the Crisis/Hostage Negotiation Team, before she was named WSPD’s 15th chief in 2017. 

Shortly after announcing her retirement, it was reported that Thompson will take a position as a U.S. Marshal. The city has retained an executive recruitment firm to conduct a national search for the next police chief that has been in consultation with the mayor, members of the city council, police employees and community leaders. 

Organizers of the event said the purpose of the forum was to give the community a chance to be included in the decision-making process. “This is not about funding or defunding or abolishing any polices,” said Chenita Barber Johnson, a member of the coalition. 

“It is about accountability and transparency during the process in the hiring of a new police chief in Winston-Salem.”

Phillip Carter, who is also a member of the coalition, said whenever decisions are being made in the city, nothing should move forward without input from citizens. He said the public should know that the incoming chief knows the concerns of the community.

“We need to be a part of the decision-making process. We need to know that this chief knows what our concerns, demands and expectations are and that is why we’re here tonight, to hear from you,” Carter said. 

Throughout the open forum a number of topics were discussed including gun violence, community policing, mental health crisis intervention (alternative responses of 911), police transparency and accountability. 

When sharing her thoughts on the new chief, Winston-Salem native Sara Hines said one of the biggest issues within the WSPD and law enforcement agencies across the country is the lack of transformative justice. She said to bring about real change there needs to be a shift in the atmosphere of policing. 

“It’s wrong that we have a system of policing in this city, and in this state, and in this country that is strictly about punishment,” Hines continued. “There is no transformative justice in any of this.”

Bink Jones said she’s concerned about the lack of transparency within the department. According to the job description for police chief, one of the major points of emphasis is transparency. Jones also discussed her concern about the police budget and how it’s being used. 

She said instead of using funds to buy more equipment, more should be done to support and work with the people in the community. 

“We have major issues with surveillance and like a police state taking over Winston with cameras being put up all over the place and license plate trackers. It’s like they’re watching us left and right but not engaging,” Jones said. “There seems to be a lot of big brotherism without actually being with the people.”

Dee Washington, who attended the forum with her son, said more than anything she wants the next chief of police to have a plan. 

“I want to see a police chief come in with a plan, that’s what I want,” Washington said. “If my daughter is a millennial and has to do a week’s worth of work to get a marketing job, then we should require the same thing for the police chief. To impress people for a job you have to come with a plan … they’re policing our communities, they work for us”

Moving forward the coalition plans to take the information that was gathered at the forum and send that information to the mayor, city council, and the city manager. They also plan to make the demands known during a city council meeting. 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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