ROCKINGHAM — With a look one part satisfaction, one part redemption and one part relief, former Hamlet Police Department Chief John Haywood was sworn in as the newest officer with the Rockingham Police Department.
He will report to work Saturday morning for his first road patrol.
Family members, including his mother, wife, sister and son, attended the brief swearing-in ceremony Monday afternoon at City Hall. Others in attendance included former Hamlet Police Chief Terry Moore, who hired Haywood in 1992. Placing his left hand on the Bible and right hand raised in the air, Haywood repeated the oath provided by City Clerk Gwen Swinney with military-like precision, indicative of nearly 20 years in law enforcement.
“Welcome to the Rockingham City Police,” Swinney said after the oath, extending a smile and a welcoming hand.
It was after those 20 years in Hamlet, including the last six years as chief, that Haywood was unceremoniously dismissed after being charged with gross negligence in the carrying out of his administrative duties; specifically, that he failed to supervise departmental operations which resulted in the improper spending of city funds.
During an Oct. 8 public meeting of the Hamlet City Council, Haywood, 42, who lives in Hamlet, pleaded at length for restoration of his “honor and integrity.” Council woman Abbie Covington responded that the North Carolina Employment Security Commission “found that his dismissal was warranted.”
Haywood was terminated by Hamlet City Manager Marchell David. However, in processing his termination papers, officials said David checked the “eligible for rehire” box. Haywood noted that the State Bureau of Investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing and that “I was cleared and the case was closed.”
Haywood likened the past 13 months to “rocky waters” but said his faith in God and the support of family and friends will help him “come out twice as better.”
“I’m moving forward,” Haywood said.
It was the SBI’s scrutiny that Haywood once again had to endure during the application process to become the 34th member of Rockingham’s finest. The SBI found nothing that would warrant the taking away of Haywood’s ability to make a living as a police officer.
“This is not a step down. This is a step up,” said Haywood, whose new bosses insist will be treated “like any other officer.”
Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly noted that both he and Haywood, when chief, regularly participated in patrolling the roads.
“We’re still of age … we want to be on the front line,” Kelly said.
Kelly said Haywood’s experience will be put to work in his new job that his officers who have several years of experience in their current positions likely have a thing or two to teach Haywood.
“I’ll learn new stuff from them, they’ll learn from me,” Haywood said.
Kelly said Haywood had applied for a patrol position “sometime a while back” but at a time there were no vacancies. When one opened, Kelly deemed Haywood “the best candidate for the position at this time.”
After the ceremony, Haywood asked the date of his first day to work his beat in Rockingham — it’s to be Saturday, Nov. 1, nearly 21 years to the day he started at the Hamlet Police Department on Nov. 2, 1992.