by Jordan Green


Winston-Salem police chief announces retirement

Winston-Salem Police Chief Scott Cunningham has announced that he will retire at the end of June 2013. Cunningham’s retirement will give him exactly five years in the position considering that he was sworn in on June 30, 2008. Cunningham worked with the Tampa Police Department for 24 years, and served as chief of police in Cary before coming to Winston-Salem.

At the time of Cunningham’s hiring, the Silk Plant Forest Citizens Review Committee was in the midst of its review of an investigation by one of the department’s detectives that had been widely criticized for faulty procedures that led to the conviction and incarceration of Kalvin Michael Smith in the brutal beating of Jill Marker. The following year, the committee released a report stating that members did “not have confidence in the investigation, the information in question, or the result of the investigation.”

Earlier this year, retired Assistant FBI Director Christopher Swecker recommended that Smith receive a new trial after reviewing the investigation. While faulting the department’s handling of the Smith case, Swecker wrote, “The WSPD’s current photo lineup policy was implemented prior to the city’s review and is a law enforcement best practice. The procedures surrounding documentation of witness and subject statements have been addressed and current policies exceed those of the FBI and North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.”

Under Cunningham’s watch, the ACLU investigated an alleged racial pattern in the way the department executed traffic checkpoints.

The department grew to 569 officers under Cunningham’s leadership, and, according to the city, citizen complaints dropped by more than 30 percent during the chief’s tenure. Cunningham put into place a new deployment policy that assigned beat officers to neighborhoods, enhancing communication with citizens.

“I am very proud of what we have accomplished in Winston-Salem,” Cunningham said in a prepared statement.

“Our community and citizens enjoy an enhanced quality of life and a closer positive relationship with the police department.”