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Cornelius News

New Cornelius Police Chief ready to roll

Police Chief Kevin Black

By Dave Yochum.  From starting salaries to benefits, the Cornelius Police Dept. has been behind the eight ball around bringing new talent on board. A citizen committee appointed by Mayor Woody Washam says starting pay for the officers who lay their lives on the line for the rest of us is almost $5,000 less than Huntersville’s.

Kevin Black, the incoming Chief of Police in Cornelius—it becomes official Jan. 1—is a seasoned manager who is respected by the team on his side of Catawba Avenue as well as across the street at Town Hall where the suits and politicians run free.

He has supervised the department as major since 2012.

Black says he’ll most likely wear a uniform in his new job being what amounts to the CEO of a business with more than five dozen sworn officers, more than a dozen civilians and a core of volunteers who support staff at public events and do things like de-commission worn-out police cars.

Black, 48, came on board with Cornelius Police in 1993. He’s been here ever since.

Staying close to home

At six-foot, three-inches tall, he looks the part of an outside linebacker, which he was at Bandys High School in Catawba, N.C. He and his wife of 22 years and their two sons live a couple of miles from the house he grew up in.

Retired Police Chief Ron McKinney knew the rookie 25 years ago. He tells a story Black won’t like: “They were canvassing a neighborhood looking for witnesses to a crime. Kevin stopped at one house and spoke to a young lady on her porch. Later she called me wanting to know if that officer was married, had a girlfriend, and could I give her his home number cause he was so cute. You can bet he got ribbed about that around the department.”

Black almost looks the part of a stern policeman if it weren’t for his ability to make those around him feel comfortable.

Cornelius Police Chief Bence Hoyle, who just got recruited to Huntersville, says Black goes out of his way to help other people.

Let’s say one of the guys is looking for a new truck. “You will get email after email of trucks you might like,“ Hoyle says.

When Lt. Jennifer Thompson’s son Jace was diagnosed with cancer, Black was “there for her all the time,” Hoyle says.

“He was there when the child first went to the hospital and was there at the funeral.” When there was a fundraiser for Jace, Black choked up when he was asked to speak.

Experienced manager

A warm heart is all well and good, but in his new role as chief, Black will be dealing with commissioners who collectively have the heart of an engineer and the soul of an accountant.

“He is sharp. He has a much better math mind than me and much more detailed than me,” says Hoyle.

Black’s favorite books: Management tomes by leadership guru John Maxwell.

Black seeks to lead by example. “I’ve always felt like if I wouldn’t do it or couldn’t do it, why would I expect my people to do it?”

The bag of Chex mix on his desk at the station was made by his mother.

Black grew up in a family with a dad in the furniture industry and a stay-at-home mom. He played football until a shoulder injury side-lined him. His first job was mowing neighborhood lawns, arriving on his bike.

When he got a drivers license, he worked for a farmer making hay.

He never got a speeding ticket, but he did get a ticket for “failing to decrease” speed before bumping into the car in front.

Black gets the irony in the chief of police having a traffic violation way, way back on his record.

He has helped define the Cornelius Police Department around community policing. CPD officers do their best to interact with the public, whether on patrol or at public events.

“We encourage our folks to get out in your neighborhoods, get out and meet people and get to know your community.  That’s who you depend on when you need information. If it wasn’t for our community, we couldn’t do what we do,” Black says.

A persister

CPD is organized into three divisions, which include Administration, Support Services and Field Operations.

The last one is all about traditional police work, where crime is solved.

There are two serious unsolved crimes in Cornelius; one is a rape almost two decades ago in The Peninsula, the other is a seemingly random murder in a parking lot at Admiral’s Quarters the day after Labor Day this past year.

Black keeps the files on his desk. He has every intention of solving them.

Asked if he is a “persister” in terms of the process communication model, Black says he is.

“From an investigative standpoint that’s what pays off, persistence. If you don’t have persistence, time passes,” Black says.

Time has passed since the late former Mayor Harold Little did frequent drive-alongs in Black’s patrol car 25 years ago.

In late December, Black had five officer positions to fill amidst serious wage and benefit gaps that make recruiting hard. The average tenure for Cornelius patrol officers has declined to an alarming 1.6 years. A consultant employed by the Town will look at salaries and benefits starting in the new year.

Experience and solid management skills are Black’s ammunition today.

“It’s about doing the right thing at the right time the right way for the right reasons,” he says.