In our experience, few towns in North Carolina hire police chiefs from within. In Smithfield, Clayton’s neighbor to the east, the police chief hails from Iowa. In Garner, Clayton’s neighbor to the west, Police Chief Brandon Zuidema’s prior job was in Virginia. Indeed, Clayton’s two previous police chiefs came from outside the agency.
All of which is to say that Wayne Bridges must be a great cop. Bucking a trend of hiring from outside, the 15-year veteran of the Clayton Police Department is now the town’s police chief.
Bridges had been Clayton’s interim police chief since Glen Allen left two months ago to become chief of the State Capitol Police. Bridges’ leadership in the interim helped convince Town Manager Steve Biggs to give him the top job.
“Based on years of success within the department and having shown competence and leadership through the more recent period as interim chief, Wayne Bridges has demonstrated the loyalty, experience and dedication necessary to be successful as chief of the Clayton Police Department,” Biggs said in a news release June 21.
In the news release, the town noted that Bridges was responsible for many firsts in Clayton – the police department’s SWAT team, its newly formed administrative division and its international accreditation status.
Beyond Bridges’ obvious qualifications to be Clayton’s top cop, Biggs said it was important to hire from within. “Having selected the past two chiefs from outside the agency, we felt it was important to show our (officers) that if they spend their career with us and work on professional development, they can rise to the top,” the town manager said in an email. “Bridges demonstrated that commitment and proved himself deserving. We are excited by the message that sends to our people.”
Bridges’ promotion from captain to chief will lead to a series of promotions, Biggs said. A lieutenant will become a captain, a sergeant will become a lieutenant, and an officer will become a sergeant. “We will then recruit an officer who comes into the agency with full knowledge that he can make a career here,” Biggs said.
In promoting Bridges, the town manager has chosen wisely. Just as important, Biggs has made it known he is ready to reward officers in a department that is clearly capable of producing its leaders from within. And that is no small thing.