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The WEEKLY 's Rebecca Putterman spoke with the Carrboro chief of police about her 29-year career with the department. Hutchison plans to retire Oct. 1.
What led you to join the Carrboro police force?
I graduated from Duke University in 1981 and applied several times with the Durham Police Department (because I lived in Durham). I wasn’t hired and eventually saw an ad for a police officer position in Carrboro. I applied for the position and was very fortunate to have been hired in September 1984.
Did you always know you wanted to be a police officer?
I became interested in law enforcement while in high school. A Fayetteville Police Officer was a guest speaker in one of my classes. I loved hearing about his work, and I asked him, “What do you think about women in law enforcement?” He responded, “There’s no place for them.” I’m grateful to him for inspiring me to find my place in the profession.
How has crime in Carrboro changed since you joined the force?
Anecdotally, when I first investigated violent crimes, people were more inclined to use their fists or knives against one another. Now people often resort to the use, or threatened use, of a gun. Some neighborhoods, which were very vulnerable to crimes associated with the sale and use of controlled substances, are now quiet and safe places to be. Carrboro remains a very densely populated town, and we’re still experiencing opportunistic thefts of property, which occur in multi-family housing and other areas. As a resident of Carrboro for 26 years, I always felt safe, but I also made it a point to pay attention to my surroundings and to note things that were out of the ordinary. Crime occurs everywhere.
What would you say were some of your greatest accomplishments as a police officer?
As a patrol officer and investigator, I had the opportunity to help people on a daily basis. I enjoyed the chance to have a positive effect on someone’s life, and I learned a lot about myself and others in the process. There are blessings and burdens inherent in serving as a police officer, but for me, the blessings outweigh the burdens. As a police chief, I think I’ve helped create an environment in which officers are able to enhance their skills, knowledge and abilities. The community has benefited from the service of police officers who are very proficient, knowledgeable and thoughtful as they respond to the needs of community members. Carrboro Police Department is an excellent organization staffed by outstanding police officers and civilian staff.
What challenges do you think the next chief of police will face?
Generally, it’s challenging to meet the many needs of the Carrboro community. We often feel like our resources, both human and equipment, are stretched pretty thin. As police officers, we also understand that some community members see us as a “necessary evil.” In other words, some people don’t generally think too highly of police until they need the police to help them when they face some sort of crisis. Others in Carrboro think they know more about our work, and how it should be done, than we do. I’m sure these belief systems occur in other places, but they seem to thrive in Carrboro. The next chief will have to understand the various needs, beliefs and politics of Carrboro’s residents, business owners/operators and visitors.
What are your plans for retirement?
I don’t have anything planned. I think I’ll take some time off to enjoy my family and friends. Eventually, I will try to find a job, but I really don’t know how I’ll reinvent myself. TW