Thedis Spencer was designated the Wadesboro police chief Dec. 31, and is devoted to creating a “safer, stronger community where it is safer to live, work and visit,” he said.
Spencer has served as the interim chief since former Chief Janie Schutz’s resignation three months ago. Born and raised in Anson County, Spencer has served with the WPD for 19 years, during which time he said he learned a lot from the previous chief, Schutz, and had positive people involved in his life.
Spencer plans to address the cause of crime, promote a community in which domestic abuse is not tolerated, encourage community involvement, ensure that all officers are sufficiently trained and educated, identify police and youth participation opportunities, and develop the senior citizen outreach program. His core values are “integrity, professionalism (very important), diversity and accountability.”
These will all help fulfill Spencer’s mission statement: “Wadesboro Police Department will develop personnel and manage resources to promote effective partnership with the community to improve the quality of life through the delivery of fair and impartial police services while maintaining an atmosphere of respect for human dignity.” He plans for the WPD to have “openness, fairness, equality and diversity.”
Part of being open and fair means listening to complaints, Spencer said. He plans to listen to any complaints about the department to keep aware of any changes that need to be made. He also doesn’t believe every call necessarily needs to end in an arrest. While it sometimes is necessary, Spencer thinks that they can sometimes be avoided by listening to the individuals involved and letting the situation defuse. When someone is being arrested but is cursing, etc., he tries to calm them down, warning them to avoid adding extra charges. He believes in trying to see if the problem can be fixed before automatically arresting. “We don’t have to take everybody to jail, especially a husband and wife having an argument,” he said.
Spencer doesn’t plan on spending his career at his desk. Soon after being appointed chief, he was busy cleaning the department. To achieve his personal and WPD goals, he says he will hold officers accountable and gain the respect of the community. Some of his community involvement includes work with Toys for Tots and Shop with a Cop. Spencer is also a member of Kiwanis and is co-chairman of the domestic violence board.
Additionally, Spencer and the rest of the WPD have taken the time to visit the county schools to visit with the children, especially after the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six adults dead. “My officers have a lot of faith in me,” he said. “The next day after this tragedy a lot of the officers got with me and volunteered their time to go to the schools and be there to greet the kids and let them know that we’re all trying our best to keep them safe. This was right after I was appointed chief. They didn’t ask for time off, they didn’t ask for pay, they just wanted to do this.”
In all, Spencer has big plans for the WPD. “Some of the people who have been supervising me, they always let me know that you don’t ask someone to do anything you wouldn’t do, and that’s the type of leadership that I’ve got,” he said. “Some people have said my heart is too big to be the chief of police.”
Since he was appointed chief, Spencer has received several calls from other department heads and has received a lot of support, including from Monroe Police Chief Debra Duncan, Sheriff Tommy Allen and County Commissioner Vancine Sturdivant. Spencer’s mentor, retired highway patrol captain Larry Whitley, was also a support.
Spencer credits much of what he knows abut supervision to Joseph Murdoch and Ronny Barnhill, two important people in his life. His father was also a good influence, teaching him core values. Spencer’s wife and family have also been a huge support, according to Spencer.
Additionally, he is a devout Christian, thanking God every day for protecting him, his family and officers, and he is thankful for his position as chief. “Without the Lord, it wouldn’t have happened.”