Winston-Salem stages celebration for retiring Police Chief Catrina Thompson

Two years ago, Police Chief Catrina Thompson received praise for her handling of the protests in Winston-Salem following the death of George Floyd.

Thompson spoke to protesters about her experience of balancing her responsibilities as a black parent and as a police officer.

“I’m black and I’m blue,” Thompson said. “I love both rooms.”

Thompson recalled that tumultuous time Wednesday at the Benton Convention Center during the city’s celebrations of her upcoming retirement. The event was attended by nearly 60 people, including local elected officials.

In retrospect, the boss said there were times when she didn’t pay enough attention to the police officers, who were often verbally abused by the protesters.

“I didn’t realize I had some employees who were scared, but they came every day and sorted it out,” Thompson said. “These officers were strapped with a bulletproof vest to the chest and a gun to the waist. They never backed down.”

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Floyd, 46, a black man, died in May 2020 after a white Minneapolis police officer placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes. His death sparked nationwide protests. Thompson and Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. marched on the early protests in Winston-Salem and were blamed for helping to keep events largely peaceful.

During Wednesday’s celebration, Kimbrough described Thompson as a friend, confidant, sister and colleague.

“I thank God for the relationship we had,” Kimbrough told Thompson. “I’ll miss you. We laughed together and we even cried together.”

WSPD leader Catrina Thompson retirement party

Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina Thompson laughs with City Councilman Annette Scippio during a retirement celebration for Thompson Wednesday at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem.

Allison Lee Isley, Journal

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said Thompson is a dedicated public official.

“She has served the people of Winston-Salem faithfully,” Joines said. “Today’s a bittersweet day, isn’t it, boss?”

Thompson, 54, said her last day as police chief will be December 31. President Joe Biden has appointed Thompson as US Marshal for the Middle District of North Carolina.

WSPD leader Catrina Thompson retirement party

Tears stream down Thompson’s face as she discusses her family’s commitment throughout her career.

Allison Lee Isley Journal

Ahead of the event, City Manager Lee Garrity said no decision had been made on appointing an interim police chief.

Raftelis Financial Consultants Inc., headquartered in Charlotte, is conducting a nationwide search to find candidates for the post of police chief. The finalists will visit Winston-Salem in early January, Garrity said.

Thompson has been police chief since 2017. She began her career as a police officer in January 1994. Thompson rose through the ranks, becoming a lieutenant in 2006, a captain in 2014, and an assistant chief of police in 2016.

During the event, State Senator Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth, presented Thompson with the Long Leaf Pine Medal on behalf of the state of North Carolina. Governor Roy Cooper presented the award to Thompson.

WSPD leader Catrina Thompson retirement party

NC Senator Paul Lowe presents Winston-Salem Police Sheriff Catrina Thompson with the Long Leaf Pine Award during a retirement celebration for Thompson Wednesday at the Benton Convention Center.

Allison Lee Isley, Journal

“We enjoyed Chief Thompson’s work for her contribution to Winston-Salem and for her contribution to North Carolina,” Lowe said.

Assistant City Manager Patrice Toney and Thompson spoke about Thompson’s accomplishments as the city’s police chief.

During her tenure, Thompson noted the establishment of the Police Department’s Gun Crime Reduction Unit and Real-Time Crime Center.

The Winston-Salem Police Department is missing about 120 officers. Using technology as a “force multiplier” helps the department keep residents safe, Thompson said.

Thompson’s passion for children led to her involvement with local charities, she said. Thompson also encouraged her officers to get involved in local charitable organizations as well.

“It creates another opportunity for us to contribute to our community,” Thompson said.

Thompson said she is grateful that Garrity hired her as her chief of police, and she thanked the city’s police officers, her leadership team and her family.

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