Policing in Eastern Carolina: The Veteran and the Rookie

Policing in Eastern Carolina: The Veteran and the Rookie
Published: May. 15, 2023 at 6:56 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) -Today is Peace Officers Memorial Day which kicks off Police Week, honoring those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day and face the risk of not making it home at the end of their shift.

It was just last August that Wayne County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Matthew Fishman was killed and two others injured when they were shot by a suspect while serving involuntary commitment papers.

Those in law enforcement make split-second decisions that could cost them, or others, their lives. They face intense scrutiny over their actions. Sometimes those actions are deemed appropriate, sometimes they are not. And they do all of it for what many would consider, not a lot of money, but a lot of stress.

So given all of that, what motivates someone to want to become, or continue to be, a law enforcement officer? All this week we’re taking an in-depth look at those who protect and serve in Eastern Carolina.

We begin with two members of the Greenville police force on opposite ends of their careers.

At 25 years old, Michelleda Fevrier-Turnage is just getting started. She was sworn in last December and says, “I remember growing up I’ve always wanted to be a police officer since I could, a little girl.”

Chris Ivey has been with GPD longer than she’s been alive. Twenty-eight-and-a-half years. He was promoted to deputy chief of police last December and could retire this summer if he wanted to.

Deputy Chief Ivey says, “Of the things that stand out in my mind what I really enjoyed the most was when I could help somebody.”

The stories of how Deputy Chief Ivey and officer Fevrier-Turnage got here are both incredibly different.

Ivey says, “Growing up I never thought about being in law enforcement.”

He says it was a criminal justice elective at ECU that sparked his interest. “And I thought I would do a couple years and maybe do FBI, DEA, something along those lines. But I was having so much fun and enjoying what I was doing just ended up staying here.”

Fevrier-Turnage’s journey began as a child and was far from Greenville. “I moved from Haiti back in 2009 with my family. It was a lot of kidnappings, killings, rapes, everything, everything, you name it. So my parents thought it was safer for us to move here in the States and I’ve been living here ever since 2009.

Coming from a dangerous part of the world she’s well aware of the dangers she now faces in her dream job. It’s one she worked hard to make come true, first becoming an American citizen and now protecting and serving. “It’s funny because I spoke to my grandfather on the phone the other day and he’s still in Haiti and he says I remember when you was walking around and saying that you wanted to be a police officer and now you are an officer and how he was proud of me.”

And she’s motivated to be the best officer she can be. “So I’ve grown to love this community it’s been great to me and my family since I moved here. So I just want to help. I want to help in any way that I can.”

Deputy Chief Ivey says it is that sense of wanting to help that also drove him and should be behind every officer. “If you take that attitude that we’re here to serve and protect and treat people the way we want to be treated then it’s a great career.”

And It’s a career where he has seen tremendous change, from technology, to recruitment and retention, to attitudes toward law enforcement. He’s seen the negative stemming from wrong or questionable use of force encounters across the country. “Good police officers when we identify that a police officer is doing something wrong we don’t want them in the profession.”

Fevrier-Turnage sees those interactions as a chance to learn. “What could have been done to avoid that situation.”

But they say some of the negativity we’ve seen towards law enforcement is only part of the story when it comes to police-community relations today.

Ivey says, “There’s a section of society that really doesn’t, has a bad opinion of law enforcement, but we’ve also seen a huge percentage of the population that comes out and supports us more than I remember prior to that.”

In her short time on the force, Fevrier-Turnage has seen the same. And she’s making it a priority to change any negative opinions to positive ones by being involved in the community. “If I’m going to work in this community protecting the people I want the people to know who I am as an officer but also want them to know who I am as a person.”

It’s that very mindset Deputy Chief Ivey says has been a guiding principle over the years, and what he hopes to pass on. “It’s a great honorable and noble profession. We’re doing our best to teach young officers how to be guardians of their community.”

That is a mission shared across the generations. Fevrier-Turnage says, “It’s a lot of room for me to grow personally as an officer here so I do plan on being here until I retire. Got 29 more years to go.”

Officer Fevrier-Turnage says as her career progresses she sees herself continuing up the ranks but also working more with kids.

While Deputy Chief Ivey can retire this summer he expects to stay at least another year.

Tuesday we’ll continue our look at policing in Eastern Carolina as we focus on the dangers of the profession, hearing from a widow who lost her husband in the line of duty.