BURLINGTON, N.C. (WGHP) — After more than 30 years of service and 8 years as chief, Burlington Police Chief Jeffrey Smythe is retiring.
Dozens gathered to celebrate the work the chief has done as he makes an exit for retirement.
FOX8 caught up with Chief Smythe on Saturday as well as event goers about the impact he’s had on the community.
It was an emotionally charged day for him as dozens gathered in the Mayco Bigelow Center to honor his dedication to the community.
“My message to the community is the biggest heartfelt thank you I could ever give. The people here are amazing, and I just can’t fathom doing anything else for the last 8 years than what I and we have done here,” Chief Smythe said.
“Jeff contributes passion, truth, honesty, transparency and trust,” said Dejuana Bigelow, an activist and community organizer.
Bigelow’s relationship with Chief Smythe started building years ago when they began a long-standing friendship over her activism and his community involvement.
“Willing to discuss the hard questions. The hard situations that no one else wants to talk about. Jeff is bold. He will tackle the hard stuff,” Bigelow said.
Hard things like conversations involving race, equity and accountability.
Chief Smythe had a childhood rooted in law enforcement.
“My dad was an FBI agent. So when I was growing up, people always asked was I going to be an FBI agent like my father,” he said.
He says his goal of equity for all is what true change stems from.
“I’ve engineered programs that have changed the community. Certainly the community has changed me. I’ll never be the same, right?” he said.
So what comes next for Chief Smythe?
First he’s catching some rays at the beach but soon enough, he will be back to business. He said he’s stepping away from the badge but not the service.
“I’m going to see what the next professional challenge is. Im not ready to be retired-retired. There’s still more for me to do in public service,” Chief Smythe said.
While some community members have concerns losing him in the department may slow down progress for equity, Chief Smythe said he’s confident the new chief will continue the solid work of the Burlington Police Department.
“Trust the staff, and then just be out in the community. Risk, come out, get involved, be seen, be engaged, build relationships. But I don’t have to tell the new chief either of those things. I guarantee the new chief, whoever she or he might be, they’re going to come into the organization already knowing that,” he said.
City leaders have been taking community insight and opinions into account when deciding who the next police chief will be.