Retiring chief of police has a few things to say

Aug. 31, 2013 @ 09:29 PM

When Carrboro Police Chief Carolyn Hutchison walked into the Century Center Friday afternoon, she was in her uniform and buttoned up tight.

When she left two hours later, she was wearing black shorts, a black Batman T-shirt and flip flops. She had retired. Don't call her chief anymore, she said. She's Carolyn.

She along with Desiree White, Carrboro's human resources director, and David Poythress, Carrboro's street superintendent, were honored during an afternoon retirement ceremony attended by more than 100 people, many of them police officers. Poythress worked more than 28 years for the Town's Public Works Department, and White served nearly 25 years leading the Human Resources Department. Hutchison served 29 years.

White knew more about personnel law than he did, said the town's attorney, Mike Brough, and Poythress's supervisor called him the hardest-working man he had ever met.

Before she said her farewells, Hutchison said she needed to speak about some things she had kept silent about before.

She told the supervisors, the mayor and the aldermen that town employees deserve recognition, appreciation and respect.

"They are subject-matter experts who continually work to enhance service delivery," she said.

Secondly, "employee's insights and observations are important factors to consider before adoption and implementation of new policies or ordinances," she said.

Third on her list of suggestions was that the town's policies and ordinances should reflect the current intention of managers and elected officials.

"If you don't change them, both employees and the community suffer the consequences," Hutchison said.

Fourth, pay employees what is fair, equitable and competitive.

"They want a pay plan structure that allows meaningful movement up the salary range that is designated for their positions," she said.

She explained her own situation. She was chief for 15 years but never rose above the midpoint of the salary range for the chief's position.

"In fact, no police department employee earns a salary that is above his or her midpoint," she said. "I am certain that this pattern is present throughout other town departments," Hutchison said.

"The pay plan philosophy has not worked for me, and it's not working for others," she said. "Many town employees are not paid competitive salaries. They suffer from low starting wages and a lack of  meaningful salary increases."

Being a police officer is not an easy job, she added.

"We are unique in comparison to other public servants in that we choose to put our own lives on the line every time we put on our uniforms and holster our weapons," Hutchison said.

Police officers serve strangers, people who threaten them, people who hurt them, who spit on them, who taunt them, and those who question their expertise, training, professionalism and ethics.

Hutchison gave a long list of the things she did while a police officer. It included helping with plumbing disasters in the middle of the night, capturing a snake that was terrorizing college girls, calling parents to tell them their child had committed suicide, attending autopsies of murder victims, investigating murders, rapes and robberies and chasing and catching bad guys and girls.

"I've even body-slammed a bank robber," she said.

"I've worked undercover and bought drugs from people with names like "Big Juicy," she said.

"I've been dehumanized by people who view me as 'the man,' the oppressor, the cog in the wheel," she said.

She urged other town employees to consider that every day they work they are building their legacy.

And about the rumor that Hutchison plans to run for sheriff of Orange County? Ridiculous, she said. Even if she wanted to run, which she doesn't, she couldn't.

"I live in Chatham County," she said.