City narrows search for police chief to four candidates

Danville Police Chief Scott C. Booth, WSPD Assistant Chiefs Jose “Manny” Gomez, William Penn Jr., and Wilson S. Weaver II,

City narrows search for police chief to four candidates
January 28
10:13 2023

And then there were four. 

After months of conducting community surveys, creating candidate profiles, and interviewing candidates from across the country, the City of Winston-Salem has narrowed down their search for the next chief of the Winston-Salem Police Department (WSPD) to four candidates. 

In a press release issued last week, the city announced the finalists are WSPD Assistant Chiefs Jose “Manny” Gomez, William Penn Jr., and Wilson S. Weaver II, and Danville Police Chief Scott C. Booth. 

The next chief will replace Catrina Thompson who left the WSPD last month after being nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as U.S. Marshall for the Middle District of North Carolina. 

Thompson was named Chief in 2017 following a national search to replace Barry Rountree. A native of Detroit, Thompson spent her entire career with the WSPD serving in the Patrol Division, Recruiting Unit, Training Division, and the Criminal Investigation Division. She also served as one of the departmental commanders of the Crisis/Hostage Negotiation Team. 

During her time as chief, Thompson led the WSPD through the re-accreditation process, expanded the WSPD’s presence on social media, and worked with the WS Police Foundation to build and deploy the Sweet Reads truck. She also leveraged technology to multiply the effectiveness of WSPD policing, created and secured funding for the Real Time Crime Center, and started High 5 Fridays, as well as a host of other programs and initiatives to address violent crime. 

When discussing Thompson’s service to the WSPD, Interim Chief Michael Cardwell said, “Chief Thompson cast a great shadow.” He said Thompson formed an excellent team and helped modernize the department.

“She did an excellent job; she formed an excellent team. We looked at technology, bringing us into the future. How to use technology to solve crimes and keep the community safe,” Cardwell said. “We’re still following her path. We’re still following the guidance that she gave us.”

Although the department has progressed under Thompson, Cardwell said the WSPD still faces challenges, including staffing shortages with officers and other personnel. 

“We’re still challenged by some of the things we were trying to overcome, staffing levels with officers and also our non-sworn staff,” Cardwell continued. “We’re in an era right now where it’s only a few handful of people who want to step up and do the job to stand between good and evil in our community.”

Cardwell also discussed the rise in homicides, shootings, and other violent crimes. In 2022 there were 33 homicides in Winston-Salem and dozens of shootings. This year there have already been at least nine shootings, three of which were fatal, including 12-year-old Enedy Penaloza Morales, who was shot and killed in Weston Park on Sunday, Jan. 15.

On Friday, Jan. 20, 32-year-old Rashaad Pitts was shot and killed while he was in the drive-thru at Popeye’s located on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The day before, 30-year-old Kane Jacob Bowen was shot and killed by William Drake at the Burke Street Pub, near Burke and West First Streets. 

According to police reports, Drake shot Bowen and another person while standing outside and shooting into the business. Drake did not know Bowen or the other victim, but he did know another person inside the business who he had a dispute with.

No arrests have been made in the fatal shootings of Enedy Morales or Rashaad Pitts.

“We know that we have challenges with gun violence and violence in general. We recognize that and we’re working hard on it,” Cardwell said.

Over the past week the city held two separate events to receive feedback from the community on the next chief. On Thursday, Jan. 19, a forum was held at St. John CME Church where the public had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss what characteristics they would like to see in the next chief. And on Wednesday, Jan. 25, the four finalists participated in a town hall at the Salem Lake Marina.

Chair of the Public Safety Committee Councilmember James Taylor, who is publisher of The Chronicle, said the community forum and town hall were held to give the community an opportunity to be heard. “This is our opportunity to get out in the community and hear your thoughts and suggestions about what you want to see in our next police chief,” said Taylor, while addressing the crowd at St. John CME Church last week. 

“We’re eager to learn what you have to say. We’ll take what you say, we’ll compile it and use it to make our selection.” 

It is unclear when the city will make the final decision on who will be the next chief. 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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