12/22/06 — Fremont police chief resigns post; interim appointed

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Fremont police chief resigns post; interim appointed

By Lee Williams
Published in News on December 22, 2006 1:52 PM

FREMONT -- In the wake of job uncertainty, high crime, and an unsolved murder, Fremont police Chief Wayne Schwark tendered his resignation to town officials this week.

Schwark told officials Tuesday he was resigning from his position to take a job as a sworn law enforcement officer with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Town Administrator Kerrie McDuffie said he was saddened by the news.

"It's good for him," McDuffie said. "But I hate to see him go."

McDuffie has begun the process of finding another chief to lead the department that has four full-time positions and four part-time positions.

In the meantime, McDuffie has tapped another officer to serve as interim leader in the town of about 1,441 residents.

"I have asked Officer Chris Thigpen to step in as interim chief," McDuffie said. "He has the most time with our department. He has six and a half years of law enforcement experience."

Due to high turnover, all of the officers at the department are new.

"We do not have an officer who has been with our department for over six months," McDuffie said.

Schwark was named to the post after the announcement of the retirement of longtime police Chief Ben Reid Jr. in February. Schwark, who was then a sergeant, was tapped to serve as interim chief. He was officially named chief in April. However, troubles later surfaced.

Schwark's six-month probationary period was set to end in October. However, in a surprise move, the Fremont Board of Alderman elected to extend his probation for another three months. The board did not give a reason for the extension, officials said.

Schwark faced challenges from the community as well as he attempted turn around a town riddled with drugs, crime and gang activity.

At the time Schwark's probation was extended, members of the community and the police department joined to stomp out drugs and crime, and created the Fremont Crime Watch. A drug dog was bought to assist with the effort.

However, the crime rate continued to climb as the town logged another murder last month. Ricky Holt, 46, was stabbed and left for dead beside a man's front porch on South Sycamore Street Nov. 27. A man and a woman were seen running from the area, but to date those clues yielded no arrests.

Schwark did not return a call requesting comment about the resignation.

McDuffie said he hopes to fill the position soon. He plans to post an job announcement in the League of Municipalities and the Goldsboro-News Argus.

McDuffie said the chief's position comes with a starting salary of $37,300. Candidates should have at least five years of law enforcement experience and a four-year college degree or the equivalent combination of education and experience, McDuffie said.