By Lindell John Kay
Thursday, March 31, 2016
I’ve gotten to know more than a few police chiefs in my decade as a news reporter. Most of them were good people, a few weren’t and I even helped lock up one for murder.
The best compliment I’ve ever received came inadvertently from a police chief who told me his hair had turned gray because of me.
None of the other chiefs I’ve known were quite as effective as Tarboro Police Chief Damon Williams.
During his three years on the job, violent offenses and property crimes declined. Each year there were fewer reported robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, larcenies and acts of vandalism. Crime decreased so much so that Tarboro was recently named one of North Carolina’s safest cities by a national home security company.
Williams brought Tarboro into the 21st century while holding onto his small town charm. He instituted walk and talk patrols, forcing his officers to park, get out of their vehicles and meet folks.
Williams also practiced swarm patrols — if a neighborhood was having a problem with break-ins, he flooded that area with cops until the culprits were caught.
Williams established an anti-gang taskforce, a local version of National Night Out, a Citizens Police Academy and the Police Explorer Program to mentor elementary students.
He held informal meetings with the public, called Coffee with the Chief, where he listened to what folks had to say about what was going on in their neighborhoods. He was instrumental in helping to establish basic law enforcement training at Edgecombe Community College.
Williams showed leadership under pressure during a triple-homicide shooting spree last year and composure while dealing with the media storm that followed.
But despite Williams’ many accomplishments, there was always a certain element of local governance that tried to devalue his contributions and destroy his character. Each and every month at town council meetings, Williams must have felt like he was trapped in a Franz Kafka novel, always on trial but never being told what crime he was accused of committing.
I won’t guess as to that certain element’s motives. They don’t pay me to speculate. But I can say a local woman told me that certain element stood in her living room and swore to run Williams out of town.
Now Williams, Tarboro’s first black police chief, is leaving. He took a better paying job running a bigger police department.
That certain element might think it won, but with Williams’ departure, the real losers are the citizens of Tarboro.
Source: Rocky Mount Telegram