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New Police Chief Catrina Thompson sworn into office
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New Police Chief Catrina Thompson sworn into office

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The swearing-in of new Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina Thompson was an affair of tears and pride Friday, as the new chief talked about growing up in Detroit and about the people and family members who helped her make it to where she is today.

A lot of those people came all the way from Detroit and elsewhere to watch the swearing-in, in what seemed very much a family affair.

And then Thompson looked out over a sea of faces that included many in blue uniforms and pledged to be someone who would help them succeed, too:

“My brothers and sisters in blue, from this day forward I pledge to be your guardian, your mentor, your cheerleader, collectively,” Thompson said. “I want us to be the gatekeepers of this city and her citizens. In the face of adversity, I want us to continue to rise, because so many people are counting on us to pull them through.”

Thompson became the chief of the Winston-Salem Police Department with the retirement of former Chief Barry Rountree on Sept. 1.

Thomson, a 23-year veteran of the department, was serving as assistant chief in charge of investigative services before the city council selected her to fill the department’s top job.

About 200 people turned out for the ceremonial swearing-in, which included remarks from Mayor Allen Joines, members of the Winston-Salem City Council and Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill.

Nearly stealing the show were some kids from Ashley Academy, the Students Against Violence Everywhere, who put on a rousing performance, including a number composed especially for the new chief.

Thompson was sworn in by Forsyth Superior Court Judge Todd Burke.

Afterward, Thomson’s sisters said they weren’t surprised that their big sister became police chief here, because she was making them toe the line:

“You couldn’t get away with anything,” sister Tiffany Fambro said. “She was always the investigator.”

Thompson is the city’s 15th police chief. She has a degree in criminal justice from Wayne State University in Detroit and a master’s degree in public administration from Appalachian State University. She is a recent graduate of the 2017 Public Executive Leadership Academy of the School of Government at UNC Chapel Hill.

As chief, Thompson leads a department with 570 sworn officers, 173 civilian positions and an annual budget of $74.5 million.

Thompson won the police department’s top job after a selection process that whittled 20 applicants down to two finalists.

With Thompson’s selection as chief here, North Carolina for the first time has six African-American female police chiefs.

The others are Raleigh’s Cassandra Deck-Brown, Durham’s C.J. Davis, Morrisville’s Patrice Andrews, Fayetteville’s Gina Hawkins and Morehead City’s Bernette Morris.

It’s an impressive feat for the state considering that women only make up 13 percent of the police force in the United States, according to the National Center for Women and Policing. Less than half of those women are black.

Thompson is one of three women to hold the position of chief in Winston-Salem’s history. The others were Linda Davis (1999 to 2004) and Pat Norris (2004 to 2008).

Thompson’s husband, Alonzo, a former assistant police chief in Winston-Salem, is now the chief of the Spartanburg Police Department in South Carolina. The couple has two children, Alyson and Christopher.

Thompson’s salary as chief will be $150,000 a year.

wyoung@wsjournal.com 336-727-7369 @wyoungWSJ

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