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Young bids farewell to ECPD

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Deputy police Chief John Young of the Elizabeth City Police Department receives his badge from police Chief Eddie Buffaloe during a retirement ceremony for Young at Museum of the Albemarle, Thursday. Young will be retiring from the ECPD at the end of next month after a nearly 30-year career.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Friday, December 1, 2017

Elizabeth City's deputy police chief bid farewell to his boss and colleagues in law enforcement Thursday afternoon.

During an at times emotionally moving event, Capt. John Young said ending his nearly 30-year career with the Elizabeth City Police Department was difficult because it’s a part of his life that he deeply loves. 

"If you came here today and thought enough of me to come, you're family," Young told the approximately 150 people in attendance at the city-sponsored event at Museum of the Albemarle.

"I called you for a reason and had the department call you for a reason: Each of you holds a special place in my heart. Be it family, friends or co-workers, we've all worked hard and we played hard," Young said.

Young, whose retirement takes effect at the end of next month, also received a special honor from city police Chief Eddie Buffaloe at Thursday’s event. Buffaloe bestowed on Young the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s top citizen honor awarded by North Carolina’s governor for outstanding government or community service.

Young wept after he made a symbolic “last call” via a police radio to the on-duty radio dispatcher Thursday. The dispatcher called for all units to hold radio traffic, then recognized Young's service, wished him blessings and offered him congratulations for a job well done.

Young, 50, grew up in Hertford and attended Fork Union Military Academy. After graduation, Young was accepted at the U.S. Military Academy. He chose instead, however, to attend Elizabeth City State University to play baseball.

It was while he was still in his 20s that he started riding around with then-city police officer Randy Cartwright and other police officers. Their influence convinced him to become a police officer.

"Fast driving, chasing people and fighting sucked me in," Young recalled.

He became a city police cadet in October 1988. By July of the next year, he was sworn in as a city police officer.

Although his family initially wasn't impressed with his career choice, he never regretted becoming a police officer, he said.

"I spent countless nights riding around this town with some of the best in the business. And I'd stack some of you guys up with anybody in this nation under the same conditions at any department," he said.

Besides his role with the police department, Young also became actively involved in the community. He was instrumental in forming the local Police Athletic League and he spearheaded establishment of the annual local National Night Out anti-crime event. He has also served as coach of the River City Rampage amateur football team.

Recalling his nearly three decades on the city police force, Young said law enforcement has changed a lot since he started out.

"Today's time is a little more kinder and gentler, a little more community policing-oriented than it was years ago," he said.

Back then, he said, a city police officer was rated based on his toughness, the amount of dents on the hood of his patrol car, how many flashlights he broke, how many crime suspects he collared and his ability to take a punch. Back then, the police department also only had typewriters, there were no cellphones and no laptop computers in patrol cars.

"The only information network was in your top shirt pocket — and it was a pad and paper," he said, noting an officer had to hope both didn't get wet when he was out in the rain.

Also when he started with the force, city police officers wore cowboy hats, cotton shirts and wool pants, carried revolvers and batons and strapped on a heavy belt, radio and vest.

"And the only pepper gas we had came from boiled eggs and protein shakes from 7-11," he said to laughter.

Young praised his deceased parents, his wife, City Councilor-elect Jeannie Young, son J.D. Young, who's now a city police officer, and Steven Young, his other son who served in the Army in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Young said his parents "gave me the tools necessary to be a good person." Of his wife and two sons, he said, "These three people right here stuck through with me through thick and thin."

Young served under 11 police chiefs and interim police chiefs. He paid particular tribute to his current boss, telling Buffaloe, "Your leadership style is 'Do as I do, not do as I say do.' And I appreciate that."

Young also told Buffaloe that while there’s always room for improvement, "You have gotten this police department back on track."

Buffaloe told ceremony attendees that he first met Young about 25 years ago during ROTC at ECSU. He described Young as both a family man and someone dedicated to the police department.

Buffaloe, police chief since 2012, said he valued his private discussions about departmental matters with Young, saying he would miss having him as a sounding board.

"He would tell me just like it was and just like it is,” Buffaloe said. “I'm going to miss that. I'm going to miss that walk from (my office at) one end of the hall to (his office at) the other."

A number of other well-wishers paid tribute to Young at Thursday’s event. Some of the most emotionally moving remarks came from his son Steven and his former colleague Rick Pureza.

Steven Young said his father is the reason he wanted to serve his country in the military. His father instilled in both him and his brother the belief that when "you sign your name to agreement or you make an oath, you stick to it."

He also noted how his father had been a father figure to many other young men, including Vincent Vance, who went on to play football for the University of Georgia and then for the Chicago Bears in the NFL. Vance currently works with other young men without father figures in their lives, he noted.

Pureza, a retired police sergeant, noted how he and Young had enjoyed a close friendship at the department, and how their lives had moved along on parallel tracks. 

"We cried together, we laughed together and we've been through some bad times and some good times," he told Young. "The good times led us to a couple of women that we fell in love with. We both got married and we had some great kids."

Also paying tribute to Young was Pasquotank Sheriff Randy Cartwright, who himself plans to retire at the end of 2018.

"John, you've worn the badge well," Cartwright said. "And you have, and will continue to by the example you’ve set, make everyone who wears the badge very proud to be a law enforcement officer.”

Cartwright said he was “so very proud of everything” Young had accomplished in his career.

“But mostly I'm proud to call you a friend," Cartwright said.

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