‘We cannot let them down’

Published 10:25 pm Thursday, September 12, 2013

Promotees and city officials at a Suffolk Police Department ceremony at The First Lady. Front row from left, Sgt. Raul Hutson, City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn, Chief Thomas Bennett, Mayor Linda T. Johnson and Master Police Officer William Shockley. Back row from left, Maj. Steve Patterson, Capt. James Buie, Lt. Adam Smith, Lt. Mark Erie, Lt. Alfred Chandler and Sgt. James Sobers.

Promotees and city officials at a Suffolk Police Department ceremony at The First Lady. Front row from left, Sgt. Raul Hutson, City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn, Chief Thomas Bennett, Mayor Linda T. Johnson and Master Police Officer William Shockley. Back row from left, Maj. Steve Patterson, Capt. James Buie, Lt. Adam Smith, Lt. Mark Erie, Lt. Alfred Chandler and Sgt. James Sobers.

The Suffolk Police Department celebrated eight promotions at The First Lady on Thursday night.

Most of the promotions, including the addition of a third deputy chief position, came as a result of a reorganization of the department. Two were due to a retirement.

“These are always important occasions,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said during the ceremony, noting it took place only one day after the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, where many law enforcement officers lost their lives. “Life is different after the loss of our innocence that day. There are no words to convey the depth of our appreciation and gratitude for all that you do.”

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Dozens of family members, friends and colleagues joined the celebration, which was followed by refreshments. Chief Thomas Bennett recognized all those in attendance.

“You have to have the support of a lot of people,” he said of police officers.

The reorganization gives the three deputy chiefs a more equal distribution of responsibilities than the previous two handled.

Previously, Maj. Stephanie Burch was in charge of department operations — more than 85 percent of the personnel — and Maj. Dean Smith handled administration.

The promotion of Maj. Steve Patterson will give him oversight of the investigations units, including narcotics, detectives and the two Neighborhood Enforcement Team gang units, leaving Burch only with patrol and special operations.

Smith still handles functions like professional standards, dispatchers, Animal Control, central records, property and evidence, finance and recruitment.

Behind Patterson’s promotion came a domino effect — Capt. James Buie, Lt. Alfred Chandler and Lt. Timothy Smith, Sgt. James Sobers and Master Police Officer William Shockley were all promoted to their current positions.

A separate retirement brought Lt. Mark Erie and Sgt. Raul Hutson to their current positions.

Chief Thomas Bennett told the new leaders that “career advancement doesn’t happen by accident.” He said good leaders are honest, competent, forward-looking, inspiring, intelligent, fair- and broad-minded, confident, straight-forward and imaginative.

Tradition dictated Patterson, as the ranking member being promoted, make remarks at the ceremony.

He spoke about his fellow promotees, many of whom he has known for years. He also said the Suffolk Police Department is one of the best in the area.

“Undoubtedly we are a force to be reckoned with,” he said.

But, he added, staffing is a concern in the department. He urged his colleagues to continue protecting the public with the resources they have.

“We can’t sit around and use staffing as a hindrance,” he said, adding the public is counting on the protection of their life and property.

“We cannot let them down.”