From The Rock Hill Herald By Jonathan McFadden, October 8, 2012
John H. Gregory, Rock Hill’s first black chief of police, announced on Monday that he will retire from the city, effective Dec. 1. That date will mark Gregory’s 40th anniversary in law enforcement.
The city will host a news conference today at 4 p.m.
ROCK HILL HERALD FILE PHOTO. Rock Hill Police Chief John Gregory
Gregory accepted the position as police chief in Rock Hill in June 2003. Before coming to Rock Hill, Gregory served as Assistant Chief of Police with the High Point Police Department in North Carolina. He was in the running against longtime Rock Hill Police Captain Charles Cabaniss and Norris Anderson, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department major, in a national six-month police chief search that saw more than 200 candidates turn in applications.
A screening committee sifted through several resumes and presented then-city manager Carey Smith with eight candidates, which he later narrowed to six and then three.
Gregory took over the job when Dave Fortson retired as the city’s top cop after five years of commandeering the police department.
The job announcement to occupy Gregory’s soon-to-be vacant position will go out almost immediately — possibly Tuesday, said Katie Quinn, city spokeswoman. She wasn’t sure Monday morning if the city’s human resources department planned to organize focus groups or solicit the public’s opinion for a new chief.
The new chief will need to maintain the momentum that’s been apparent in the police department within the past nine years, said Frank Zebedis, chief of the Winthrop Police Department.
Zebedis, who worked at the Rock Hill Police Department for seven years before he became chief of Winthrop Police in 1998, said Gregory has made a “lot of good decisions.”
Under Gregory’s tenure, the police department’s added new technology, more personnel and developed a more aggressive street crimes unit, Zebedis said. Gregory’s experience at the High Point Police Department, and the working relationship between the Winthrop Police Department and Rock Hill Police Department has buffered enforcement around the campus.
“(Rock Hill police) understand that Winthrop University is its own police department,” Zebedis said. “We have the training they do… the same expertise they do. We’re not a security company. We’re not security officers. We are police officers. We’re there to assist (Rock Hill police) within close proximity to our campus.
“John understands that,” Zebedis added. “He understands that I’m not trying to step on his toes; it’s not a turf issue.”
One of Gregory’s greatest strengths, Zebedis said, is his engagement with the community.
“He’s always out talking to groups, talking to rotary groups, going to lunches with this group, going to breakfast with this group,” he said.
Nathaniel Jaggers, president of the South Central neighborhood association, said Gregory”s done a “super job” as chief, especially when he brought the U.S. Department of Justice’s Weed and Seed program to Rock Hill in 2005.
“That really helped clean up our neighborhoods,” said Jaggers, a resident of Rock Hill for most of his life.
But Gregory’s time as chief didn’t necessarily usher in a new era of heightened enforcement and community engagement by police in Rock Hill, Jaggers said. Instead, “it was a continuation.”
Chiefs before Gregory had made strides in increasing police and community interaction, starting with a substation on Green Street and sending out officers on bike patrols, Jaggers said.
For Jaggers, race didn’t matter when Gregory became chief and it doesn’t matter now.
“Unless you saw him, I don’t think you would’ve known we had a black police chief,” he said. “(Gregory) just did his job.”