Public praises police performance; former officer airs grievances to CALEA assessors

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Eleven people used a Monday afternoon public hearing related to reaccreditation to air their support for or concerns with the Wilson Police Department.

“I trust our chief. I trust our police department. In fact, my constituents back me every inch of the way,” said Wilson City Councilman Derrick Creech. “A few might say otherwise, but the majority will say we have the greatest police department in North Carolina.”

The comments during the meeting were directed toward Inspector Dan Isgett with the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina and Emporia, Virginia, Police Chief Ricky Pinksaw, who are conducting the department’s Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies reaccreditation process through Wednesday.

“One thing I’ve noticed is the community outreach and how involved the department is with the community and the youth,” Pinksaw said. “They know how it is supposed to be done and it is impressive. Some folks just come and do their job, but this agency goes above and beyond.”

Pinksaw’s observations were corroborated with statements from Theresa Mathis, who spoke about the department’s involvement in the Wilson Youth Council and the safety of the N.C. Whirligig Festival, JoAnne Daniel and Linda Moore, who spoke about police involvement in community organizations and the Citizens Police Academy, along with former Wilson officer Frank Jones, who led the department’s community relations efforts for several years.

Not all of the comments were positive, though. Mark Levin kicked the session off with rumors he’s heard about problems among officers and the administration.

“I’m a citizen with nothing to do with the police department, but I became aware of serious problems with morale and discord through the rank and file of the department,” Levin said. “...There are serious problems at almost the top. It is not necessary to have someone lose their job automatically, but there should be an investigation. You should look into or study what is going on and ask the officers to talk candidly.”

A former officer also expressed his concerns about problems in the department. Eddie Cruz said he worked for Wilson from 2002 to 2010 before being terminated. He now lives in Arizona.

“I decided I can’t not speak for those who can’t speak for themselves,” he said about traveling to speak during the public hearing. “...There are issues with this department that most never know about and the reason they don’t is because they are covered up.”

Levin and Cruz both said more than reaccreditation should be investigated. Pinksaw said the allegations levied by the two critics will be investigated, but the issues might be beyond the scope of CALEA accreditation standards.

“We’ll ask a few questions and dive into what some of the concerns are. I don’t know all the facts and details, but we’ll have a conversation with the command staff,” Pinksaw said. “We’ll dive into it deeper.”

He said all of the public comments — the good and the bad — were appreciated.

CALEA is a Gainesville, Virginia-based professional organization that advocates for best practices in law enforcement and accredits agencies that meet its standards. The CALEA seal brings prestige but does not bestow authority. State officials regulate departments’ exercise of police powers and certify sworn law enforcement officers.

Further comments can be submitted to the accreditation staff by calling 703-352-4225 or emailing calea@calea.org with “Wilson Police Department” in the subject line.