After 37 years in law enforcement with the City of Newberry, Newberry Police Chief Roy McClurkin will retire on Saturday, April 3. While he said he will miss the friendship of his coworkers and staff, McClurkin said he is looking forward to spending time with friends and family and reflecting with his retirement status.
Working in law enforcement was something McClurkin said he always wanted to do. After graduating from high school, he attended Piedmont Technical College in Greenwood, studying Criminal Justice. Having only been in school just over a year, McClurkin said the Newberry Police Department contacted PTC looking for an African American officer.
With a recommendation from his academic advisor, McClurkin said he filled out an application and was hired by the department in 1983 as a patrolman, later going back to school as well in 1995.
Rising through the ranks in the department, McClurkin was named Corporal in 1987, Sergeant in 1990 and Lieutenant in 1991. In 2004, he began his work in investigations.
In 2014, he was named Captain until he took over as Police Chief in 2015, following the departure of Dennis Brown. McClurkin was the first African American Lieutenant, Captain and Police Chief for the City of Newberry’s police department.
Having touched every rank within the police department has been helpful in his role as police chief, McClurkin said as it has allowed him to understand each position, the person that is in that position and how their day-to-day duties are affected.
“It gave me more of a personal relationship with them, knowing how it affected their family when they’re working holidays, nights and weekends,” he said. “I know this job has become unsafe in certain times and I always keep them in mind when I’m not in the office, wanting them to be safe and get home safely to their families.”
Throughout his career in law enforcement, McClurkin said he has seen technology change and improve the way policing is done.
“We use technology to solve crimes, track suspects and even network with other departments,” he said.
Body cameras are now worn by every officer, McClurkin said, which helps keep them safe and keeps what they do transparent to the community they serve. Having computers in each patrol car was something he said was also very different as technology has grown throughout the years.
“Even though we have all of this technology, we still need the community involved to get the job done,” he said. “Technology will never take the place of engaging with the community and commonsense practices within this profession.”
Taking over as chief in 2015, McClurkin said his goal was overall to leave the Newberry Police Department better than where he found it.
“Not that it was in bad shape, but there is always room for improvement,” he said.
McClurkin started holding community meetings and having officers interact with children in schools by opening car doors and reading to students. The department was also involved in the city’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism department’s RecMobile summer program for children.
Another one of his goals was to include members of the community in the hiring process of new officers, which was achieved by having them sit on the interview panels for different candidates. Hiring a quality staff and giving them the opportunity for the most specialized and up-to-date equipment to best serve the community was also something McClurkin was proud of during his time as chief.
Working in law enforcement, McClurkin said he has most enjoyed the people he has met throughout his career and the opportunity to help so many members of the Newberry community. While there have been many challenges in his 37 years in law enforcement, recently having to navigate through a pandemic, while continuing to provide quality service to citizens ranks high on his list.
“My staff has made changes in the way they handle some calls for service, and they have done an outstanding job,” he said.
Working alongside his staff and seeing them every day is what McClurkin said he will miss most when he retires.
“We are a family forever. They are tremendous, and I am going to miss them dearly, but I know I’ve left a staff here that will continue the job that I started,” he said. “They will build on it and make this department even better than what it is now.”
McClurkin said he has enjoyed working with other members of city staff and he appreciates their friendship.
“I will see them around for city events,” he said.
For their trust and confidence in him, McClurkin thanked Mayor Foster Senn and the members of City Council as well as former City Manager Al Harvey and current manager Matt DeWitt for giving him the opportunity to be police chief and friendships he will never forget.
Having been hired by former Police Chief Andrew Shealy, McClurkin thanked him for the opportunity he was given to serve the great citizens of the City of Newberry.
For those considering a career in law enforcement, McClurkin advises that they must be committed to helping others and making a difference every day.
“Hard work and determination will always lead you to your goals,” he said. “I’ve always used the philosophy that if you treat people like you would want your family members to be treated, that you can accomplish anything.”
City Manager Matt DeWitt said the City of Newberry was truly indebted to McClurkin for his dedication and service to the city’s police department and its citizens for nearly four decades.
“Roy saw the department through many transitions and changes over his tenure, and he always made sure the department handled these changes with true grace and professionalism,” DeWitt said.
McClurkin was the first police chief that DeWitt had the opportunity to serve with as city manager and said he could not have asked for a better chief with whom to have had the honor to serve with.
“Roy’s contributions will be long remembered and appreciated, and I personally wish him a very happy and rewarding retirement,” DeWitt said.
Looking towards the future, DeWitt said he was excited for what it held. Current Captain, Kevin Goodman will step into the role of police chief, after having served the city in law enforcement for over 25 years.
“Kevin has a wealth of law enforcement experience and a very similar background of coming up through the department’s ranks, much like his predecessor,” he said. “This will give him a good working knowledge of what every officer within his department is dealing with and these experiences should allow him to best personally connect with his officers, no matter the rank or tenure.”
DeWitt said the city was enthusiastic for what the future holds for the Newberry Police Department and is excited that Goodman’s knowledge and experience would help ensure the department’s continued success and reaccreditation.