Chief Pat Bazemore retired on Friday after 29 years of working in law enforcement. Bazemore, Cary’s first female chief of police, was promoted to the position in 2008.
The department announced her retirement in June. A search for a new chief is still underway. When she was first hired as a police officer in 1986, Cary was a “sleepy town,” Bazemore said. Since then, she has seen the town’s population more than quadruple and earn an FBI title of safest city of its size in 2012.
Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown was just one of the area law enforcement leaders to praise Bazemore since she announced her retirement.
“She has been more than a professional peer,” Deck-Brown said in an email. “With her years of experience, she has also been a mentor and, ultimately, a friend. Each of us has risen through the ranks in our respective departments, and we have much in common. Her wisdom, experience and leadership will be missed.”
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Robert Temme, chief of the Southern Pines Police Department, said Cary is losing a great chief of police.
“She’s trained her staff to the level that although she’s going to be missed, the excellent level of service they give now is going to be continued,” Temme said. “That will be her legacy.”
The Cary News sat down with Bazemore in her last week of being chief for the Cary Police Department. She discussed everything from the challenges of the community’s perception of law enforcement to her experience being a female police chief.
Q: Why did you choose to go into law enforcement?
A: I intended to come for two years and then apply for a crime scene investigator position. Well I came, and absolutely fell in love with working for the community and being out there. The difference in what I thought law enforcement was going to be and what law enforcement was, was so intriguing to me. Even now, 29 years later, I’m still going out and there’s still something different every single day.
Q: What changes have you seen in law enforcement over the years?
A: When I came into law enforcement, it was a job. It was a great job, but it was a job. Over the years I’ve really seen it turn into a profession. … We are blessed in Cary to work in a community that truly appreciates us, and they treat us very well. It’s not like that everywhere, I do know that. But in return, the community expects a lot from us, and we’re very cognizant of that and try to bring the best service possible to our community.
Q: What have been some of your most rewarding moments?
A: It is always rewarding to me when people that I had a part in bringing to work here get promoted or succeed. Just recently, we had a promotion process, and I can’t tell you how touching it is to see these people that I was a part of bringing here and see them get promoted. When I see the folks that I work with succeed — those are my proudest moments.
Q: What are some of the challenges with being an officer now?
A: There’s things that have happened that have caused the community not to trust law enforcement as much. … Sometimes officers feel the impact of what’s happened in other places across the United States. People do look at you like, “You’re one of them.” No, we’re one of many. We’re one of you, we’re part of this community as well. I’ve seen some of the ways our officers have been treated, and I will tell you, I’ve been absolutely impressed with the way our officers have dealt with that as well. Sometimes it is hard to come to work every day and feel like you’re not appreciated, or that you’re being accused of doing things that you’d never imagine doing.
Q: Do you ever wish you could go back to hands-on police work?
A: The job that I enjoyed the most in law enforcement was being a sergeant. You are out, boots on the ground every day, working side by side with the officers, and just really out there in the trenches … I do miss that part of law enforcement very much, but I also know that in this position I have the ability to truly impact what’s happening, in the community and in our department.
Q: How have you dealt with being a woman in law enforcement?
A: It still is a male-dominated field. When I finally accepted the fact that I don’t need to be one of them to be successful, that there are ways that women complement law enforcement, and when I stopped trying to be one of the guys, I think it made the job so much easier for me. … In my career, I have had people that said “Can you send a real police officer?” I think there are still people that are very surprised when they find out — because with the name Pat you could be a man or a woman. I answer my phone, “Cary Police, I’m Pat Bazemore,” and they say, “Yes, can I speak with Chief Bazemore?” … They’re just surprised.
Q: Do men and women bring different things to law enforcement?
A: I think that we bring different things to the job. Not that men don’t have some of those characteristics as well, but it’s proven that women have less use of force in situations than men in law enforcement. … The statistics show there are less complaints on women. I think that does bring into account that our communications skills are a little stronger, sometimes. And we are probably more apt to use our communications skills than we are to use our physical skills every opportunity that we get.
Q: How do you think the department will change after you leave?
A: Within the next two to five years, a significant number of people that are in specialty positions and supervisory roles will be leaving the department. There will be lots of opportunities for our younger officers and younger supervisors to really take the department in a whole different direction. … Change is difficult, but change is also good and needed. I think that I’ve made a lot of changes over the years, so I think that they will probably be glad to see change slow down a little bit.