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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
The COPS Office is pleased to feature the December 2017 winner of the Community Policing in Action Photo Contest — The Winston-Salem Police Department. The winning photo features Corporal Randall White and an elderly resident holding on to each other as he escorts her to her home.
On Friday, September 1, 2017, Catrina Thompson assumed the role of Winston-Salem’s new police chief. She also started what has become a weekly routine for Winston-Salem police officers and local students: High-Five Fridays. It was not something she had planned—it was just something she did on her first day as chief. However, when she noticed the impact that it had on the students, she decided to make it a weekly occurrence. “We go to schools on Fridays and give students high-fives as they’re getting off the school bus,” she shared. “It’s encouraging high academic performance just by letting kids know that we believe in you and we’re confident in you.”
Thompson doesn’t see High-Five Fridays as an extra task, a special activity, or something worth publicizing—she sees this as part of her responsibility as chief of a department that not only practices the principles of community policing, but one that embodies community policing as a way of life.
“It’s just like breathing every day. It’s what we do,” she enthusiastically shared. “That’s how we do our jobs. There are not many officers here that started their careers before 1989 so that’s the only way they know how to do law enforcement,” Thompson said, alluding to a 1989 shift in the department’s policing philosophy toward community oriented policing.
Serving a population of 242,000 residents, the Winston-Salem Police Department (WSPD) has a sworn force of approximately 559 officers and 173 civilian employees. Home to a thriving arts community and a number of colleges and universities, including Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State University, the city attracts many visitors from all over the world. It is the fifth largest city in North Carolina1 and, not unlike other large cities in the U.S., Winston-Salem has seen an uptick in violent crime while overall crime is trending downward.
Thompson is confident that officers are on the right path to improving public safety in the Winston-Salem community. “We’re working with residents and businesses to combat that problem,” she shared. “It’s all about building trust and confidence in our community and strengthening relationships and breaking down walls and barriers. We can’t do it alone. We can’t arrest our way out of everything. We see the value in working with our community and businesses to reduce crime and increase public safety.”
WSPD officers are often involved in community events and activities, but even more often informally engage with residents. Corporal Randall White, who has been with the WSPD since 2012, can attest to that. His patrol often involves helping residents with a variety of tasks. “They approach us in many instances and ask for help,” he shared. “I’ve been asked for assistance when cars have broken down and I’ll help them out. A lot of our citizens are very happy to see us.”
White is the officer featured in the WSPD’s winning photo, locking arms with an elderly resident. “I responded to one of our local grocery stores and I came into contact with an elderly female who had just finished shopping and said she needed a ride home. I told her okay and she insisted that I hold her hand [to the car]. When I got her home, she insisted that I hold her hand as she walked down the driveway.”
“We can show you pictures on any given day because it’s happening so often,” Thompson added. “And it’s not just our sworn officers; it’s our civilian employees as well. It is our expectation because we are community-oriented. It’s a great opportunity to see mankind on a daily basis.”
White, who was raised in Winston-Salem and graduated from Winston-Salem State University with a degree in Justice Studies, shared that he always wanted to help people and give back to his city. “Growing up in Winston, I spent a lot of time in church and one of the deacons was a police officer. It intrigued me and as I got older and learned more about the police department, I knew that this was what I wanted to do.” He interned for the police department and, upon graduation, joined the force as a sworn officer.
White is part of a department whose core values include service, integrity, professionalism, fairness, and impartiality. He serves his community daily by being available and willing to assist those in need. The WSPD’s mission to protect lives and property by providing exceptional police services to the community in partnership with the citizens of Winston-Salem2 is what drives such a spirit of service for WSPD officers. With Thompson as the department’s newly appointed chief, there is no doubt that officers will be expected to continue to embody that mission in everything that they do.
Thompson, who is the agency’s third female police chief, and second African-American female chief, values and understands the importance of diverse perspectives to make a successful team. When asked about her rise to chief, she attributed her success to her team.
“Having grown up in the agency and having relationships with officers in the agency, I have, over time, earned trust and confidence from the team that I work with. What is most important is that my team realized that I don’t know it all and I don’t claim to know it all. I think we’re a better agency because we’re able to capitalize on all of the strengths of all of the team members,” she shared. “The fact that we all work together to share information and make our department better as a result of the strengths we all have, I think speaks highly to our agency as a whole.”
The COPS Office congratulates the Winston-Salem Police Department for being one of the 12 winners of the COPS Office 2017 Community Policing in Action Photo Contest and for its commitment to community policing.
Written with contributions from Chief Catrina Thompson and Corporal Randall White. Photo courtesy of the Winston-Salem Police Department.
1 “Past, Present, Future,” Visit Winston-Salem North Carolina, accessed November 2, 2017, http://www.visitwinstonsalem.com/about/past-present-future.
2 “Mission Statement,” City of Winston-Salem—Police, accessed November 3, 2017, http://www.cityofws.org/Portals/0/pdf/police/strategic-plan/Mission%20Statement.pdf?ver=2016-08-11-073737-153.
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