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'We Need To Look At Ourselves First': Retiring Matthews Police Chief Reflects On Profession, Career

chief_rob_hunter.jpeg
MARK RUMSEY / WFAE

Longtime Matthews police chief Rob Hunter retires on October 1, after a 30-year career with the Mecklenburg County town's police department. He's been chief for 24 years. 

Hunter didn't plan for a law enforcement career.  He was a special ed major in college and taught for a time. But, Hunter says, when a position he'd just been offered with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools was eliminated two weeks before the school year began, friends told him the Matthews police force was hiring.

"Never thought about being a cop," says Hunter. "But the practical reality was, I needed a job." The department hired him. "From the day I stepped into a uniform, I knew it...this is what I was meant to do."

During his three decades with the police department, Hunter has seen Matthews grow from fewer than 14,000 residents to around 31,000 today. Law enforcement has changed over the years, too. WFAE's Mark Rumsey talked with Chief Hunter about  those changes, and the challenges that have come with them.

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Chief Rob Hunter on one of the challenges facing the Town of Matthews' police department and other law enforcement agencies: "Recruitment is a struggle. Recruiting minorities into law enforcement these days in general is a struggle, I think for many obvious reasons - the tensions that have existed, the mistrust that has existed - but it just simply is going to take a very continued and directed effort to continue to build on that."

Chief Hunter on tensions between police and citizens in communities across the U.S.:
"As a profession, we need to look at ourselves first.  Are we being open and honest?  Are we holding ourselves accountable when bad things do happen, because they do? If we're not, if we're trying to 'circle the wagons' and protect ourselves or exclude our communities from knowing what's going on within their police departments, we're killing ourselves. We're..destroying trust, you know, with the people that are paying us to be here to help keep them safe."

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