Thompson is named W-S top cop

August 31
05:00 2017

Last week Assistant Chief Catrina A. Thompson was officially announced as the city’s 15th chief of the Winston-Salem Police Department.

City Manager Lee Garrity made the appointment official during a press conference at the public safety center on Aug. 25. Garrity, who oversaw the hiring process said over the past few weeks, said Thompson has received overwhelming support from police officers, nonprofit organizations, and community leaders.

“It’s a pleasure today to introduce incoming Police Chief Catrina Thompson. Citizens who I don’t even know have contacted me. From all walks of life, she got lots of support for this position,” Garrity said.

He said the main reason Thompson was selected for the position was her commitment to the people in the community. He said, “She brings a unique combination of somebody who has worked many years in investigations, believes in crime enforcement, and reducing crime. He said she’s not a soft person on crime but at the same time she understands to really change things, you need transformational approaches.

“She’s very committed and has a lot of very compelling ideas that will take time but I think can really move that needle,” Garrity said.

Thompson, 49, has spent her entire career with the WSPD. A native of Detroit, she joined the local police department in 1994. Since that time, she has served in the Patrol Division, Recruiting Unit, Training Division and the Criminal Investigations Division. She has also served as one of the departmental commanders of the Crisis/Hostage Negotiation Team.

Before Garrity introduced Thompson as chief, The Chronicle sat down with Thompson to discuss her plans for the department. One of the things high on Thompson’s to do list is get more involved in local schools and involved in the lives of our future leaders. Thompson said it is important all community stakeholders come together to support our youth.

She said, “We can clearly rewrite the generation equation for youth in our community whose life challenges stand in the way to their road to success. We can truly change lives and change the trajectory of the future of some of our children but we’ve got to be willing to invest.

“We know that we have a problem with education in parts of our community. We also know there is some poverty in some parts of our community. All of those things contribute to crime not just in Winston but everywhere.”

Thompson also vowed to continue making strides made by the department to build relationships with the people they serve. In recent years the WSPD has opened the lines of communication with citizens. Events like Coffee with A Cop, open forums, and other community events like school supply giveaways and charity basketball games have shown residents a side of the department most haven’t seen before.

At a place in time where police are considered a threat in some communities, Thompson said it is more important than ever to build relationships with the people they serve. She said sitting down and having real conversations can go a long way.

“We may not agree on everything, but if we can talk things out, I get to know your heart and you get to know mine. And at the end of the day, we walk away either agreeing or agreeing to disagree. If we foster those relationships, then we get to know each other.”

Thompson said that public safety will always be the department’s priority, but at the same time she understands that taking someone to jail is not always the answer.

“Winston-Salem is my home. This is the city I love and I’m committed to working with you to make sure we move forward in a positive and productive manner. I want you to know I do take seriously as your police chief the safety and security of our community,” she continued. “…We also know we can’t arrest ourselves out of all situations and arresting is not always the best solution to an individual problem.

“I am committed to working with our nonprofit organizations, with our school system, businesses and our citizens to make sure we’re working together to identify the true problems that cause crime in our community.”

As chief, Thompson will oversee a department with 570 officers and 173 civilian positions and an annual budget of $74.5 million. She is expected to replace Chief Barry Rountree on Friday, Sept. 1, who announced his retirement earlier this year. When asked what will be going through her mind when she is sworn in, Thompson said her grandparents, Willie D. and Florida Blue who sacrificed a lot to help put her through private school and away from the troubled streets of inner city Detroit where she grew up.

“My grandfather always wanted a nurse and a police officer. I always joke none of us were nurses but he did get one police officer,” Thompson smiled. 

See Tevin Stinson’s interview with Chief Catrina Thompson on the Winstonsalem Chronicle YouTube channel.  Click on the YouTube icon at or go straight to YouTube.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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