O’Neal swears in new police chief

Published 3:20 pm Saturday, August 9, 2008

By Staff
Belhaven’s top cop takes oath in private ceremony
Staff Writer
Job titles are changing in Belhaven.
A week after the interim tag was dropped from Town Manager Guinn Leverett’s job title, Frederick Clingenpeel has gone from police-chief designate to police chief.
Clingenpeel was sworn in as chief of the Belhaven Police Department at 10 a.m. Thursday morning. Mayor Adam O’Neal administered the oath of office during a private ceremony at the department.
Although Clingenpeel was publicly introduced at the Town Council’s July 14 meeting, he was not allowed to start work in his official capacity until Thursday. Clingenpeel and the town waited while the N.C. Department of Justice finalized his certification.
Leverett, who was in Raleigh on Wednesday, received a call from a Department of Justice official explaining that Clingenpeel’s certification had been completed. Because he happened to be in Raleigh, Leverett went by the department’s headquarters and picked up the new chief’s certification documents.
Town officials are excited to have Clingenpeel on the job, O’Neal said.
Clingenpeel began to make himself known to the public several days before being sworn in. His family moved into town last weekend. After settling in, Clingenpeel took to the streets Monday.
He started by introducing himself to business owners on Main Street and in the downtown area.
About his initial meeting with the new chief, O’Neal said it “felt real good.” O’Neal believes Clingenpeel has bought into the concept of community policing being pushed by town officials, but he still remains cautiously optimistic.
The mayor said he has received positive feedback about Clingenpeel, so far, from every town resident he has spoken to.
Clingenpeel said he made it a priority to “make contact with the citizens of the community” even before being sworn in.
Clingenpeel said he’s been pleased with feedback from those he’s met.
After being sworn in, Clingenpeel said, he switched his attention from public affairs to departmental affairs. Clingenpeel said he got right to work organizing his department, and worked from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. planning trips to recruit officers and reviewing evidence laws.
The mayor believes the new chief is making town residents more comfortable.
The mayor also believes Clingenpeel will be able to attract officers similarly interested in community policing.
In the mayor’s view, the fact that Clingenpeel lives in Belhaven is the icing on the cake.
According O’Neal, it has been more than 25 years since Belhaven’s police chief lived in the town.