Gina Hawkins did not have the ambition of being a police chief. “I’ve been a worker bee as a police officer for nearly 29 years,” she said. She applied for the chief’s job in Fayetteville after being tipped off that the post was available by Durham Chief C.J. Davis, who’s only been on the job a few months.
Hawkins and Davis know each other well. They served together for 18 years in the Atlanta Police Department. Hawkins, 49, most recently was Deputy Chief of the Clayton County, Georgia, P.D.
During an interview, as she unpacked her uniform in her secondfloor corner office at police headquarters, Hawkins said she expects she’ll be in uniform 95 percent of the time. It will sport four stars.
Hawkins admires the work former Chief Harold Medlock did to modernize the department and is excited to make her own contribution. “We have our own culture and history, and my job is to make the department even better,” she said.
Hawkins said she will depend on her command staff to acquaint her with the Fayetteville community. She and Assistant Chief Anthony Kelly became acquainted in 2013 when both attended the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. She’s spoken at length with Kelly, who served as interim chief for eight months following Medlock’s retirement last year.
Hawkins is well-aware, she said, of the Fayetteville Police Department’s stellar reputation. She regards recruiting and retaining African-American officers as a significant challenge. “I’ve got a few ideas,” she said. One of those ideas is for the department’s recruiters to develop relationships with local high schools. She wants to encourage seniors to consider a law enforcement career while they’re still in school.
Hawkins also wants the department to do a better job of going after young soldiers who leave the service at Fort Bragg. “Every one of us should be recruiting day to day,” said the chief. “We can train the young people, but we need to be more aware of how we can ask them, ‘What are you doing?’ Join us and be a cop.”
As for the local crime rate, Hawkins shared the concern that murders and aggravated assaults have been on the rise nationwide. “We don’t know why,” she added.
As for prevention, the chief plans to adopt Medlock’s practice of dissecting assault case files to gain a better understanding of why they happen. She said the hope is to head off homicides that could grow out of aggravated assaults by talking with the families of victims and perpetrators.
Her oldest daughter, Italia, is 26 and just completed a four-year enlistment in the Navy and hopes to return to college. Sixteen-year-old Trinity is still in high school and decided to stay in Georgia for now.
PHOTO: Police Chief Gina Hawkins