One of the perks of my job is getting a chance to meet good people daily. The downside, at times, is that some people can be quite rude and not so good to experience.
Goldsboro police Chief Michael West is one of the good ones. I had the opportunity to discuss police operations and the newspaper with him in my office the other day. It was a fruitful meeting from which I believe we both walked away with a bit more knowledge about each operation than we had before we sat down.
For starters, I did not know that West worked his way up through the ranks on the patrol side of the department. With the department for nearly three decades, and chief since 2016, he started in a radio car and gained leadership and authority through the patrol and traffic divisions.
This is interesting. Many of the police chiefs I have worked with in different areas of the country spent some time in investigations or as a detective. I don’t believe I ever met a chief who came up through the patrol ranks only.
Also, it is commendable of West to have spent a career in patrol. Officers in uniform are many times the best at portraying police as the true community leaders they are. Don’t get me wrong; I am not slighting any police who wear “plain clothes” or work undercover. But people on the street recognize the police uniform and the patrol car and respect the authority of the officer. Of course, it is human nature to get upset when an officer pulls over your vehicle and you believe you have done nothing wrong. But it is the best officers who help people to understand the reason for the traffic stop and deal with those who are not accepting of the officers’ actions.
Coming up the way he did, West is one of those best officers.
On his end, West recognizes that the relationships between news organizations and law enforcement have become strained over the years. It is easy for a news reporter to take a simple human mistake or minor misjudgment and make it look as if it is a huge error or police malfeasance. Those types of reporters have not worked long for me, nor will they ever. You see, we all experience poor judgment from time to time. I exercised poor judgment just the other day when I thought it a good idea to eat two Spam and cheese sandwiches for breakfast. They stayed with me all day but sat like lead balls in my stomach, making me extremely uncomfortable. But a lack of good judgment by any person must be viewed as a part of the whole person’s character and must be reported that way. Sensationalizing news reports, in any fashion, is not something the News-Argus does.
It was evident from our conversation that West, like the newspaper staff, follows the classic six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. The police department, the newspaper, nor any operation or organization can exist for long and be successful in the eyes of the public and consumers if they do not follow the six pillars.
From pillar to pillar runs a thread of connectivity: appreciation for others and yourself. This breeds success. West shows this in the way he talks, the things he has done with the department since taking over its reins and the plans he has to improve operations and the quality of life for his officers. The newspaper shows this each day with the work of its news, sports, circulation, advertising and front office divisions. Will the newspaper make mistakes? Sure. It has before, and it will again. But those mistakes are always handled openly and honestly. Will the Goldsboro Police Department make errors? Yes. But with the leadership of Mike West, those, too, will be handled in the same manner.
It was a pleasure to sit down with police Chief Michael West, to learn more about the police department, and maybe iron out some wrinkles that were getting in the way of an even more promising relationship between the newspaper and his department.