New Police Chief Robert Hassell made clear that texting Edgecombe County Sheriff Clee Atkinson and Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone is standard operating procedure for him.

“So I have a strong relationship with them,” Hassell told the Telegram in a recent interview about a variety of topics. “We’ve already had a few meetings with each other on how our three departments can continue to build on the strong relationship we already have and continue to work on keeping our community safe.”

Hassell is quick to acknowledge those who may commit crimes do not necessarily see jurisdictional boundaries.

Additionally, Hassell made clear that, “I believe we have a great relationship with not only just our sheriffs, but all of the other law enforcement agencies here in our counties.”

He also said he has met Nashville Police Chief Anthony Puckett and Tarboro Police Chief Jesse Webb.

“So it’s not just the sheriffs and I,” he said. “It’s all of us working together and communicating.”

In the meantime, Atkinson made clear Hassell impressed him in the first month on the job as Rocky Mount’s top cop.

Atkinson told the Telegram of Hassell coming to his office in Tarboro and having an hour-long conversation with him.

“That spoke volumes for me,” Atkinson said. “We shared what our visions were — my vision as Edgecombe sheriff and his vision as the chief. We talked about ways that we can partner better.”

Atkinson also told of the presence of graffiti in a particular neighborhood in Rocky Mount and as the Edgecombe County sheriff having asked leadership about ridding the scene of the illicitly sprayed writings.

Atkinson told of the graffiti having been removed a couple of weeks after he phoned Hassell about the situation.

Atkinson also noted he called Hassell one day and expressed thanks for the animal services unit and the police having done a tremendous job catching two aggressive dogs.


“Our biggest thing is making sure we work together as agencies to make sure we keep the people safe,” Atkinson said. “That is big — and he understands the role of the sheriff and the role of the chief. He gets it — and I appreciate that.”

Atkinson also said of Hassell, “So far, he has been a good listener — and I can appreciate that.”

He also said Hassell has been quite visible in the community.

“And I’ve been getting feedback from the community that they love to see the chief out in the community,” he said. “So that’s been greatly appreciated.”

Atkinson has been Edgecombe County’s top lawman since 2017 and Stone has been Nash County’s top lawman since 2014.

Stone and Atkinson also were once longtime shift partners on the State Highway Patrol.

Stone told the Telegram of having known former Rocky Mount Police Chief George Robinson for a long time and of having had a great working relationship with him.

Of Hassell, Stone said, “I think he’s a professional — and I think he’s going to work well and collaborate with us.”

Stone also emphasized his belief in partnership being essential in fighting crime, not only at the local level, but at the state and federal levels, all for the common goal of keeping residents safe.

Stone also consistently has made clear that he and his team are going after guns, gangs and illegal drugs. He spoke of the same people over and over again getting arrested and of his belief in getting cases into federal court to secure swift and stiff prison sentences.

“We’ve got to get those bad players out of the communities,” he said.