HAMLET — Call it “Coffee with a Cop Times Seven.”
Scott Waters finally got to do what he has craved doing since becoming police chief in 2014: share a cup of coffee and conversation with the community — on Wednesday morning, with about a dozen visitors to the Hamlet Senior Center in the first of what he said would be a series of such gatherings.
“The Police Department can’t be a success without the community,” Waters told the group. “We want you to be officers without badges … eyes and ears on the street who don’t tote a gun.”
In tow, Waters took his detective and road captains, a detective sergeant, two K-9 officers and two patrol officers. He almost increased that number by one on the spot, offering to hire senior citizen Catherine Bethea after she chastised Officer Charles Talley for parking his shiny cruiser the wrong way around on the Senior Center driveway.
“I ain’t going to be no cop,” Bethea scoffed, although she did admit she loved the gathering.
Waters himself spent a good portion of the hourlong meeting speaking with Katrina Hayes of Cary, who visits Hamlet twice a week to see an aunt and who attended the meeting to express concern about drivers she considered suspicious.
Waters took copious notes, thumbed through photos Hayes had taken and assured her that if she would but call, he would get to the bottom of her complaint if he could.
That impressed Hayes.
“There is something about this guy here,” she told those sharing the table with her and Waters. “The fact that he would come here and listen speaks volumes about his character.”
If the meeting was intended to be a conversation, it also was a “Get to Know Your Police Chief” session, with Waters sharing stories of growing up in Hamlet — mowing lawns and sweeping floors for extra money — before deciding to stay in town to care for his parents rather than become a Highway Patrol officer. (His mother was injured in the Imperial Foods fire, and his father, disabled.)
Waters joined the force 27 years ago, he said. And nearly three decades later, he remains committed that residents won’t “have to worry about gunshots ringing out or dope being slung on the streets. … We’re going to clean it up.”
He also reminded the crowd about the shooting death nearly a year ago of Tierrell Martin, a crime that has not been solved and that, Waters said, sends him to Martin’s grave occasionally to promise the young man justice.
“I enjoyed talking to the chief,” Sarah McMillan said after the meeting. “(Working with the police) helps the community. We cannot stop violence unless we all get involved.”
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]