Carrboro police chief announces retirement

Jan. 07, 2013 @ 07:30 PM

Carrboro Police Chief Carolyn Hutchison has told Carrboro Town Manager David Andrews she plans to retire October 1.

Hutchison began working for the Town of Carrboro as a rookie officer on September 13, 1984.

“That was one of the luckiest days of my life,” Hutchison wrote in a letter to Andrews announcing her plans to retire.

Hutchison, 53, went to Duke University and after graduation, she applied three times to the Durham Police Department but didn’t get hired there. She finally applied at the Carrboro Police Department and the chief then, Sid Herje, gave her a chance, she said.

Hutchison started as a patrol officer, then became an undercover narcotics officer, then an investigator, then a juvenile officer and then a crime prevention officer. She was promoted to patrol sergeant, followed by a promotion to captain of administrative services.

On Nov. 17, 1998, she was named chief.

While she was working as a police officer, she enrolled part-time in the public administration program at UNC in 1986 and obtained a degree in 1990.

Hutchison was the first openly gay police chief in North Carolina, although she didn’t make her sexual orientation much of an issue until someone filed a lawsuit against the town because it had extended benefits to the domestic partners of its employees.

Then she spoke publicly about it.

“I just wanted people to realize my family was not different than other families, and I felt that we deserved the same benefits as everyone else,” she said.

Hutchison has not always taken on the role of the public face or voice of the police department. She has a voice disorder called spasmodic dysphonia, or spasms in her vocal cords, making it difficult to talk. Sometimes the words don’t come immediately, and other times, it sounds as though she has lost her breath.

“It’s a reality for me that I deal with every day, but there is not a day that goes by that somebody doesn’t ask me if I’m sick or if there’s something wrong or ask me what’s the problem,” she said.

“It’s not exactly a ‘command voice,’” Hutchison joked.

She has a spokesperson in the office who speaks about routine matters, but if she needs to speak as the chief, as the leader of the police department, she does.

Hutchison said it’s been rewarding being the chief in Carrboro, but she’s faced a number of challenges.

The Town of Carrboro has made point to be very welcoming to immigrants, and has a sizeable Hispanic population. Some neighborhood residents have complained about day laborers who wait for work along Jones Ferry Road. The Town and the police department had to work their way through that issue, as well as related issues.

“There are people who pit the police against the community when there is no ‘us verses them’ issue,” she said.

 “I see law enforcement as part of the solution, not as part of the problem in this community,” Hutchison said. “I think we’ve always been that way, and I intend to carry that forward until the day I retire.”

Hutchison announced her retirement Monday to give the town plenty of time to select a new chief.

She’ll be 54 when she retires, with children in college, so she anticipates finding another job, although she’s not sure what that will be.

“That’s open,” she said.