By RICK CURL
Of The Record Staff
National Police Week was initially established to honor the men and women who have given their lives for their community. Now, it’s a way to honor all of those who wear a shield and who have chosen public service and protecting the public as their profession.
For the last 15 years, Benson Police Chief Kenneth Edwards has led a department he characterizes, not only as an extension of the community, but one that is based on small-town values, small-town morals and most importantly, based on trust. He cites a classic example of small-town policing when he describes Benson. “We’ve always pitched, and I believe, we hold true to a Mayberryesque feel, I say that all the time,” he said.
He characterizes Benson as a small town that isn’t without its own problems, even though they don’t define the town.
“It’s a small town and we have problems from time to time, but it’s not the norm,” he said. “I guess that’s why it’s so stunning to folks when things happen. It’s not normal for us to have a continuous crime wave.”
Dunn Chief William Haliburton, who took over the office in November, says sometimes the current rash of negativity toward police has overshadowed the pride police carry with them.
“I think it’s an honor to be a police officer anywhere in this country,” he said. “I think that point has been lost for the last couple of See Police, Page 3
Coats Police Officer Ryan Sasser shows off his patrol car to Jackson Quinn during Farmer’s Day. The boy shown is the son of Jeremy and Carol Anne Quinn of Coats. Officers like Mr. Sasser are being honored during National Police Week which is this week.
Submitted Photo Police
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years. The men and women who serve are definitely doing an honorable job.” While so many times across the country there is sentiment against police, locally all chiefs of police agree the attitude is a lot better.
Feel The Support
“I get more people coming to me and saying I appreciate what you do and thank you for what you do than the negative things I hear,” Chief Haliburton said. “So, I do believe there’s a lot of people out there who support what we’re doing.”
Coats Chief Jeremy Hall fully credits the town for being the solid foundation for his officers to build their careers upon. He says the town has made each and every one of them welcome and made them a part of their community without question.
“We’re really community-oriented and I would say we’re more embedded within the community and my officers have been more than a lot of departments,” Chief Hall said. “Not that a lot of other departments aren’t, that’s just how I feel about our department.”
Chief Edwards, who is the second- longest tenured chief in the area behind Lillington Chief Frank Powers, says the town has been one of the biggest reasons the Benson Police Department has not been called out for improprieties or misconduct by officers. He says the town has embraced them. “The people in this town are the most giving, most loyal of any community I’ve ever heard of,” Chief Edwards said. “They’re always involved in community activities, our efforts to work with youth and the crime deterrent things that we do.”
The family feeling doesn’t stop there. Erwin Chief Jonathan Johnson says without the support of his community, the job would be difficult.
“It’s just a great community. They’re very supportive of their law enforcement,” Chief Johnson said. “It makes me and the other officers feel good that the community supports them and are glad to help them when we need some help.”
When you compare our area to the rest of the country, it seems like the bad will and ill feelings that have come to light over the last two or three years has failed to catch on. That’s something all law enforcement officials should and can appreciate.
“Last year was a pretty rough year for law enforcement as a whole with the number of officers in the line of duty deaths and everything else going on in the media, it was kind of a rough year for law enforcement as whole,” Chief Johnson said. “Often the people in the community come up to you and say thank you for what you do.”
It’s not something his officers — or for that matter any police officer — expect over the course of their careers.
“We don’t get it a whole lot, but when we do, it makes you feel good,” Chief Johnson said.
Lillington Police Department Patrolman Bill Edge is one of the town’s most visible officers, often representing the department at public events. He was also recognized when he administered CPR which saved a man’s life in a local convenience store.
He said he does his job for one reason and not to get personal glory or be the center of attention. Instead, he feels his job is more important than any accolades he or any other officer could contemplate.
“I do it because I enjoy the people I meet,” he said. “I like helping anyone I can.”
And that’s the same reason many officers take up the profession.
“Our officers are just more of a family-oriented group of guys who are vested into the town — not just pull 12 hours and go home — they really care about the people and they want to see the people succeed,” Chief Hall said. “They really care about their protection.”
Chief Hall says his officers take their feelings to an additional level.
“With my guys it’s more about a calling,” he said. “It’s almost like a ministry as in it’s more of a calling-type thing with them as it is for myself.”
Angier Chief Bobby Hallman calls it simply an honor to be involved in the community and to serve the residents.
“It’s certainly an honor to serve the citizens of Angier,” he said. “It’s additionally an honor to make sure the public is safe.”
Officer Edge added that he feels appreciated as he works in the county seat, even if they aren’t always happy with him.
“People thank me all the time for what we do in the community,” Officer Edge said. “There are always times when people are mad if we are giving them a ticket, but you expect that.”
Chief Hallman has similar sentitments. He said his officers enjoy their time with citizens.
“We certainly enjoy interacting with the community and helping them with their day-to-day needs,” Chief Hallman said.
Can Always Improve
Chief Haliburton agrees and admits the officers themselves — regardless of where they are located or what the interaction involves — do have the opportunity to improve those perceptions and generally make the effort.
“I do believe there’s a lot of people out there who support what we’re doing, but I also believe the message that’s been sent out there is not a positive one toward law enforcement the past couple of years,” Chief Haliburton said. “We have to do our part making that better.”
Chief Edwards believes there’s a way for officers to do just that every day. It comes from something he has told every officer under his leadership.
“If you come to work and interact with our citizens and make any decision whether it’s an enforcement decision or trying to help somebody, whatever your task is that day, you treat every single person like you would like your mother to be treated,” he said. “If you treat every single person like you want your mother to be treated, you’ll probably go a long time without getting a complaint, much less having an issue.”