Ms Catrina Thompson, Chief of Police, City of Winston-Salem, delivered an inspiring address to incoming students during the morning of 17th August as part of Fall Orientation. Chief Thompson spoke about growing up in Detroit in a challenging environment and experiencing many of the difficulties encountered by minority groups before rising to a leadership role.
As the leader of a police department with over 570 sworn officers, Ms Thompson promised that her staff would be there for the community’s safety. Thompson said she would not condone illegal or bad conduct by her staff and would be the first to hold them to account if they violated their oath or broke the law. Reflecting on her own situation as the mother of an African-American boy with special needs, she said she could understand the apprehensions experienced by many parents when dealing with law enforcement.
The Chief also spoke about the need for people across the spectrum of political opinions to engage with each other to gain an understanding of the racialised history of law enforcement in the country. Thompson said that what happened in Minneapolis with the killing of George Floyd was just “criminally wrong.”
On recent tensions in the city, Chief Thompson explained how the Sheriff’s Office’s prompt communication had helped douse the outrage in the community following the release of the Cook’s Flea Market video showing a White officer arresting an African-American man. She said a lot of law enforcement work is not pretty, but “just because it looks ugly doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”
Thompson also elaborated on her initiatives to look after her own staff as they are subjected to a stressful environment. She explained the need for wellness training and coping skills to ensure that police officers respond to tense situations in a reasonable manner.
Earlier, Dr Sandeep Gopalan, Vice Chancellor of Carolina University, introduced Chief Thompson as a history-making leader in the law enforcement domain. Dr. Gopalan noted that she is only the third woman chief of police in the city’s history, and one of the few African-American women leaders across the nation.