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Dance is first black woman to take oath as sheriff

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Pitt County Sheriff, Paula Dance left, sits next to the former sheriff, Neil Elks during Dance's swearing-in ceremony, Monday.

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Monday, December 3, 2018

Paula Dance entered the history books when she was sworn in as Pitt County’s sheriff during a Monday morning ceremony at Community Christian Church in Greenville.  

Dance is the first woman of African descent to become sheriff in the state of North Carolina, according to the N.C. Sheriff’s Association. The ceremony took place at 9 a.m. and elected officials, dignitaries and community leaders from across the state packed the sanctuary to see Dance, who said she has been hard at work preparing for her new role.  

“It’s been a very long day already,” Dance said. “I got up early this morning and was taking care of some last minute things to get prepared for my swearing in. I’m ecstatic, I’m happy it’s over with and I’m ready to get to work, hit the ground running and protect the county.” 

And to help her with protecting the county, Dance has a newly sworn command staff to help lead the 330-plus of employees of the sheriff’s office. 

Randy Gentry, who was chief deputy under former Sheriff Neil Elks, will help Dance oversee administrative matters, while Chauncey Congleton will lead investigations and John Guard will oversee patrol division. 

For Dance, taking the baton from Elks and assuming the role of sheriff is something that has yet to sink in fully.  

“It’s still surreal in a sense. I realize that this was a big undertaking, that there were not many people who were my gender and especially not my gender and race running for sheriff. I knew I had put in the hard work and I knew I put in the time and I proved myself out there and decided to go for it. There was nowhere else for me to go but up. The glass ceiling has been broken and it doesn’t stop from there,” Dance said. 

Elks said Monday that Dance’s election is something he couldn’t be more excited about. 

“We’re quite excited about having a new leader, and we know exactly what she’s going to do because I’ve trained her for the last eight years. Couldn't wish for a better day,” Elks said. “She’s a sheriff for all the people and she understands the dynamics of the sheriff’s office, the ins and outs, what we do here and she has a lot of training and understanding of what the needs are in the county. She is very in tune with the community, she knows what they want and she is very ready to take the job.” 

And Dance said she hopes to inspire other women and people of color to work hard and go after their dreams.

“I hope I can be a role model for other women, for other people of color to look at and say, ‘You know, hey, if I do the right things and do what it takes to get out here and work hard, I can do this.’ It’s a lot of responsibility that is on my shoulders right now, but I feel confident and comfortable that I can handle it.”

Her first priorities, other than signing off paperwork on newly sworn deputies and detention officers, are to prepare for budget workshops and procure body cameras.   

“There will be upcoming meetings of course with the budgets coming up, sort of like preliminary meetings, those will be times I will certainly throw in the body cams we so desperately need,” Dance said. “We need to have a way to be able to show what actually happened on the scene whether it’s good or bad. It needs to be verified in some type of way so there’s not this perception out there that officers are covering for officers or any other perceptions.”

Other issues Dance said are at the forefront include working on providing mental health resources at the detention center. 

“Our detention officers, thankfully already have taken some training in some of the areas that I was looking at providing resources. There’s a program in Virginia that we kind of want to model. I’m still looking at that, and we’re going to try and get the nuts and bolts together on that and see if we can’t make a well-oiled machine and at least be able to have some resources for people who are addicted for when they leave our facilities. We’re going to move forward on that and hope to get it in action soon and see what it looks like.

Dance said citizens can expect the same level of service from the sheriff’s office. “For the most part, it’s business as usual,” Dance said. 

And Dance said that she hopes the community can unite together in its efforts to fight crime.  

“It was a journey to get here but I’m here and here we are. This is not the end of the journey and I want you all to understand that this is only the beginning. As we move forward in unity and in inclusiveness, let’s all work together to keep our community safe. I am proud to be elected as your new sheriff. And even prouder to lead the way for others to follow. Pitt County, I am proud of you and I hope I can make you as proud of me as well.” 

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566.  Follow him on Twitter @TylerstocksGDR

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Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Crime and Rescue

February 18, 2019

Greenville Fire-Rescue responded to more than 388 fire and EMS calls from Feb. 7-13. Following is a breakdown:

FIRE CALLS

Feb. 7

■ 9:18 a.m. — motor vehicle accident with injuries at Oxford Road and East 10th Street. Cleared 10:30 a.m.

■ 11:52 a.m. — unintentional alarm system…

February 17, 2019

Officers arrested six people after shots were fired as a party was breaking up at a business north of Greenville, the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office reported on Sunday.

Deputies were called to Morning Glory Products, 3511 N. Memorial Drive, about 1 a.m. on Saturday, according to a news release…

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February 17, 2019

 

WILSON — Two people face drug trafficking charges after authorities seized nearly 50 bricks of heroin in a multi-agency operation led by the Wilson Police Department.

Farlyn Andres Suarez De Jesus, 26, and Katherine Polanco, 27, both of Raleigh, were arrested and charged with…

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February 17, 2019

A Raleigh man, who is charged with driving while impaired and hit-and-run after he crashed into the driver’s side of another car, ran from the scene, according to a weekly review of Greenville Police Department crash reports and Pitt County court records. 

The crash took place Feb. 10…

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February 16, 2019

Three people have been arrested on drug charges after a package containing 4,000-5,000 Xanax tablets was intercepted in the U.S. Postal System, the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office reported on Friday.

Deputies obtained a search warrant for 518 Lancelot St., Grimesland, as a result of the…

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February 16, 2019

A man was arrested on Thursday after stealing a vehicle, according to a case report released by the Greenville Police Department. 

The incident took place between 11 p.m. on Wednesday and 8 a.m. on Thursday. The report listed the address of the incident on the 1700 block of Rosewood Drive,…

February 14, 2019

Rocky Mount police are asking for information regarding the city’s fifth homicide of the year. This time, the victim is a woman.

The Rocky Mount Communications Center received a phone call at 10:57 a.m. on Wednesday from Nash County Communications asking for help in assisting EMS with an…

February 14, 2019

Three items of women’s clothing were reported stolen from Kohl’s on Tuesday, according to a case report released by the Greenville Police Department. 

The incident took place between 2 p.m. and 2:13 p.m. on Tuesday at Kohl’s, 3501 Galleria Drive.

Items listed as stolen…

February 13, 2019

The Greenville Police Department is asking the public to help identify a woman suspected of stealing jewelry from the Hobby Lobby.

The department on Wednesday released surveillance images of the woman taken as she shopped at the store, located at 3432 South Memorial Drive.

The incident occurred…

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February 13, 2019

NASHVILLE — The Nash County Sheriff’s Office still has not released the names of the three deputies who were placed on administrative leave after the officer-involved shooting of a Bailey man on Saturday.

Jonathan Ramirez, 28, was killed in front of his Bailey home about 5 a.m. on…

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