New Hamlet Chief talks community initiatives over coffee

By Jasmine Hager, Richmond County Daily Journal
Original article HERE

Seniors, as well has Hamlet City Council member Jesse McQueen and County Commissioner Tavares Bostic, gathered at the Hamlet Senior Center for coffee and conversation with the new Hamlet Police Chief, Sheriff James Clemmons and other officers Tuesday morning during Coffee with a Cop.

Coffee with a Cop launched in Hawthorne, California in 2011 as a way for the police department to interact successfully with the citizens they serve. Former Hamlet Police Chief Scott Waters brought the national initiative to the Hamlet Senior Center back in June 2018.

During the discussion, Hamlet Chief of Police Tommy McMasters Jr. introduced attendees to community outreach programs the police department, in conjunction with the Sheriff’s Office, plans to start in Hamlet including Neighborhood Sweep, where officers will go door-to-door on Saturdays to introduce themselves and talk to residents about issues in their communities and also gather intel on what residents would like to see done in their neighborhood, and Adopt a Block, where officers will be assigned two to three blocks of the city to patrol and watch over for three months before rotating. The Neighborhood Sweep is projected to start in June or July and Adopt a Block is planned to begin in late August.

“I’m looking forward to starting those initiatives,” said McMasters.

Those in attendance also had a chance to ask questions and voice any concerns they had. Cassandra Smith, who is hearing impaired, asked officers what to do in the event she encounters an officer and is need of assistance, and also how to protect young children from gun violence.

“It makes my heart sad,” she told the officers about the violence she sees. “We don’t want them to die before we do and if there’s anything we can do to help them, I’m willing to do that.”

Clemmons advised Smith to place a sign in her car to let an officer know that she has a hearing impairment and in regards to young children and violence, Clemmons said parents and guardians need to sit down and talk with their children.

“We have to get back to being a village again,” he said. “Our kids look at guns as a tool of manhood. They look at the (doors) of our jail as a way to cross into manhood. And that’s not where we are. We need to be talking with our kids and understanding what’s happening.

“We have mentoring programs in our county, we have mentoring programs in our school system and we have our law enforcement officers and deputies who go into every single school every single day,” Clemmons continued. “But we’re just a handful. We need people in our community to join together because you’re right, we don’t need to be burying our men and women at the rate at which we’re doing today. Our youth is very important.”

Clemmons told attendees Tuesday that conversations held at Coffee with a Cop were important and something that should be held throughout the community.

“Sometimes we only encounter the bad,” he said. “And when we encounter you, it’s because you’re the victim. We don’t have the opportunity to hang out with you. So I’m glad we have the opportunity to hang out and spend time with the citizens of Richmond County and we appreciate your support and how you stand for us in Richmond County.”

In addition to talking about what they can do in their communities, Clemmons advised attendees on how to navigate this upcoming weekend with the Epicenter Festival. It’s estimated that there will be an influx of 10,000 people who will come in Thursday to camp and around 25,000 to 26,000 people will be in Richmond County daily Friday through Sunday.

“Traffic is no stranger to Richmond County. We’re no babies or infants when it comes to traffic,” he said. “It will be all hands on this weekend. We’re ready.

“But I’m not going to tell you you’re grocery store will be filled with food,” he laughed.

While the program might not be a monthly occurrence, Locklear hopes to continue Coffee with a Cop several times throughout the year.

McMasters said he was glad to be able to discuss issues Tuesday and felt that the event was a way for attendants to put a name with a face in law enforcement.

“I want to let the citizens of Hamlet know what our plans are and who I am,” he said.