Whitakers names first black female police chief
BY COREY DAVIS
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
WHITAKERS — People across the Twin Counties saw history made on Aug. 6 in the town of Whitakers.
Lynette Clements, 47, was sworn in as the new police chief during a Whitakers Town Council meeting. Clements became the first black female police chief in the small town that’s in both Nash and Edgecombe counties.
“It was overwhelming at first,” Clements said. “But being in law enforcement and working in different positions, I’m always the only female and I always worked with a lot of guys. Making history within itself was exciting, but I know with that comes a lot of responsibilities. A lot of things are going to be expected from me because as a female in law enforcement, we have to work three or four times harder as the men to be considered equal.”
Clements brings plenty of experience to the position, having been in law enforcement for nearly 20 years. Clements served as a detective sergeant doing such duties as being an undercover investigator from 2002 to 2013 at the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office.
She also served as an investigator in her hometown at the Garysburg Police Department for a few years, before spending a few months in 2014 as a patrol officer at the Enfield Police Department. Clements eventually became second-in-command as the lieutenant investigator at the Sharpsburg Police Department for about four years until she left in January.
Whitakers Mayor Esterine Gary Pitt said Clements replaced former chief Darrell Cofield, who retired earlier this year after several years of service in Whitakers. Pitt said Clements brings a wealth of diverse experience, a number of certifications and is certified to train the department’s officers as the top cop.
“With a smaller department, having someone that has served as both a lead investigator as well as a patrol officer will allow our department to handle the safety needs of our town,” Pitt said. “It’s important that our citizens know and trust our officers.”
Pitt said Clements shares the town board’s vision of having its police chief and officers focused on community interaction.
“I like to get out of my car and walk around in the community,” Pitt said. “Anybody can ride around in a police car for eight to 12 hours and wave, but it’s important that the citizens see us outside of the police car. We need to get out and meet them.”
Clements also wants to change the negative perception children have of law enforcement.
“Growing up, police officers were heroes,” Clements said. “However, now with the media and so much going on, kids don’t see us as heroes anymore, but as enemies. I don’t like that concept because I’d rather have a child run to me than run from me because I love children. They need to understand we aren’t here to hurt them. We do have a job to do and there are certain ways we can go about doing that job to make them feel safe.”
In her new role, Clements plans to start a 12-week citizens academy in October with a small graduation ceremony in December for residents that complete it. She said one part of the academy will focus on explaining to participants who the public officials are in town and their duties.
“A lot of people don’t know who the mayor is and who the commissioners are, and as part of that orientation I want them to understand the positions that those people hold and their duties,” Clements said.
Clements also will hold a class where residents can learn about town ordinances.
“I can’t expect people to obey the law if they don’t know it, so if I can teach them those things that they violate, then they will understand this isn’t OK and won’t do it anymore,” Clements said.
A class on firearm safety also will be taught, Clements added.
“They will know the different rules on possessing a firearm and what you need to do to go about getting a concealed weapon permit,” she said. “I’m also going to incorporate what you should do when you get stopped by a police officer, because not knowing can get a lot of people hurt.”
As a person who grew up in a small town, Clements said Whitakers has a lot of potential for growth. She just hopes the people will be open to allowing and helping her make the community better.
“I want the community to give me a chance because this is my passion,” Clements said. “A lot of people work for income. However, if you have the passion for what you do and love doing it, you don’t mind doing it. Being in law enforcement, if you don’t have the passion for it, you won’t make a good officer.”