Garner Cleveland Record

Former Garner police Chief dies at 75 from lung cancer

Current Garner police Chief Brandon Zuidema chats with former Garner police Chief Percy McIver after the groundbreaking ceremony for a new police station in 2014. Wake County Sheriff’s Capt. Jimmy Stevens stands behind them (center).
Current Garner police Chief Brandon Zuidema chats with former Garner police Chief Percy McIver after the groundbreaking ceremony for a new police station in 2014. Wake County Sheriff’s Capt. Jimmy Stevens stands behind them (center). News & Observer file photo

Percy McIver, the former Garner police Chief during the ‘70 and ‘80s, who once traced down an illegal dumper by his license plate and instead of charging the man, offered him the opportunity to clean up the mess, died Saturday at the SECU Hospice House in Smithfield. He was 75.

The cause was lung cancer, said his son, Garner police Sgt. Mike McIver.

The family found out about the cancer only two months ago. Mike McIver said his father wasn’t in the best shape, and the radiation treatment took away most of his strength. Doctors had stopped all treatment prior to his death. McIver is survived by his wife, Patty McIver, of 54 years, two kids and grandchildren.

Percy McIver was Garner’s police chief from 1970 to 1989, when there were only four people in the police department, including him. By the time he retired in 1989, there were more than 20.

“I remember he had a phone-line put into his bedroom, so whenever somone called the police department, it would go to his phone and he would wake up in the middle of the night and go take the call,” Sgt. McIver said.

The former police chief was part of a board of Wake County police chiefs that developed the current 911-call system. The chiefs were looking to have a universal number for Wake County residents to call. Prior to that, those who had emergencies had to call a seven-digit number.

McIver also started a record-keeping system within the Garner police department before computers were around.

Police Chief Brandon Zuidema tweeted about Percy McIver’s death Saturday.

“He was a good man and a good friend to me. Rest in peace chief,” the tweet read.

Sgt. McIver said his father loved being a police officer. He said he didn’t become an officer to put away criminals, but rather to help people.

He even took the police academy twice just because he enjoyed it.

He just loved helping people. He went about policing people in a different way. He was looking for the betterment of people and not just enforcing the law.

Mike McIver, Garner Police Sergeant, and his son

“He just loved helping people,” Sgt. McIver said. “He went about policing people in a different way. He was looking for the betterment of people and not just enforcing the law.”

That’s where Sgt. McIver says he gets a lot of his ideology from.

Born in Duncan, NC, Percy McIver, joined the National Guard after high school. After the police academy he joined the police force.

Before coming to Garner, he was a deputy with the Wake County Sheriff’s Department.

McIver was known by many of his employees as an understanding boss, who cared about his employees, and took them for their word, then holding them to it.

“Everybody who worked for him loved him,” Sgt. McIver said. “He would defend them to the end but he would also hold them accountable. But even the ones he held accountable, they loved him.”

Recently retired police Lt. Len Hatcher said, when he was hired by McIver in 1988, he noticed the department was very family-oriented. Hatcher was part of the last batch of employees McIver hired.

“He treated it like a family,” Hatcher said. “He was very personable. This was his family to him. He was the same off-duty as he was on-duty.”

Hatcher agreed that under McIver’s leadership, Garner’s police department was a service-first police department. Part of that was because there wasn’t much crime in Garner at the time. It was common for an officer to do a house or building check at night.

“He felt that we were providing a service to the public,” Hatcher said.

As a father, he supported his children no matter what, Sgt. McIver said. He moved to Johnston County’s Cleveland community to be closer to his grandchildren later in life.

“I probably wasn’t the best kid growing up, but he was always there for me,” Sgt. McIver said. “He would do anything in the world for me. He was my role model. His family life values, his professional values, whatever he did he did it to the best of his ability.”

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @GarnerCleveland

Visitation

Visitation will be from 6 - 8 p.m. at Bryan-Lee Funeral Home on 1200 Benson Road in Garner. The funeral will be Friday at 2:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church.

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