Eddie Buffaloe Jr., has followed the path of public service for as long as he can remember. It was a calling that he observed in his father.
In December, Buffaloe began work as Elizabeth City’s new Chief of Police, bringing his career, ambitions and focus on public service to the River City — where he found the hospitality to be “overwhelming.” In an interview last week, he answered several questions about police work and his life.
Buffaloe came to Elizabeth City from Enfield in Halifax County. He was chief of police in that small town, but according to articles in the Roanoke Rapids newspaper, he was much more than that. Buffaloe was a high school sports official, a funeral home director and even Enfield’s interim town administrator. According to news accounts, people in the Halifax County town say their loss is Elizabeth City’s gain.
Much has been reported about Buffaloe’s background in law enforcement, but there’s more to the city’s new top cop. Here’s what we leared about Buffaloe and his thoughts on being in Elizabeth City.
The Daily Advance: You’ve been in Elizabeth City since December. Has your family settled in yet? How do you all like your new home?
Eddie Buffaloe: My family hasn’t moved yet. But the times they’ve been here, they’ve been impressed and the hospitality is overwhelming.
TDA: What was your first impression of Elizabeth City?
EB: Warm and a lot to offer from an educational standpoint — and being a bedroom community to the outlying area of Virginia.
TDA: In the short time that you’ve been here, what have you observed as Elizabeth City’s greatest weakness and greatest strength?
EB: I think the strength is the foundation of the institutions of higher education — ECSU, MACU, COA and our public school system. The weakness, like any other city, is property crimes. I’m talking about breaking and entering, vandalism, breaking into cars. Those are the biggest crime problems in Elizabeth City.
TDA: In a newspaper article, an Enfield resident stated that you believe in the “broken window” philosophy. What is that and how did you come about it?
EB: She made that (broken window) up, but I believe she was referring to property crimes. I think the people steal because they don’t have. ... We can’t arrest our way out of everything, but if we are proactive to deter crime you see crime decrease. But if you sit back in a reactive mode, it keeps going up or it plateaus.
TDA: You have talked about emphasizing community policing, building and maintaining community trust. How do you plan to build and maintain community trust?
EB: You gotta be part of the community in order to ask for trust and keep trust. That’s everyday. I’m not asking them (police officers) to do anything they haven’t been trained to do. I’m asking them to get to know people in the community.
TDA: Can you tell us about goals as Elizabeth City’s chief of police?
EB: My short-term goal here is to look at the organizational structure and the department analysis reports and take those recommendations and implement those. Long term I want to foster those relationships in the community and hopefully see our crime rate decrease. It’s not bad (Elizabeth City crime rate) if you look at other communities like Henderson.
TDA: While in Enfield you were known for identifying and addressing pressing criminal trends. What have you identified as Elizabeth City’s most pressing criminal trends and how do you plan on addressing them?
EB: It’s still property crime, but I think people for the most part feel safe here. I think we can be a more proactive police department on solving those crimes and educating the public on locking their vehicles and homes.
TDA: Many people are concerned with Elizabeth City’s gang problem. What will you do to address this problem?
EB: It is a problem. These are young men and women who are making bad decisions and creating criminal activities and we are going to address it through enforcement; also through
community partnerships. So we are taking a two-pronged approach. Those who want help will get help. Those who don’t (want help), we’re going to take enforcement measures.
TDA: Your father was a police chief and still works as a bailiff. How much did he influence your decision to enter law enforcement?
EB: When I was born he was a cop. I don’t think he had any other clothes than his uniform. He was a big influence because you see your dad helping people. You realize he was a public servant. That was a big influence, seeing that he was a public servant.
TDA: In a 2010 news story, your son Bryan was quoted as saying that you are his role model. What makes a good role model in today’s world? What are our responsibilities to our children?
EB: Our responsibility is the care, the custody and the control of our children. We have to care for our children everyday. I have to base my training on my father. I think a good role model is positive interaction and positive reaction. A good role model is a positive influence.
TDA: You worked as a high school sports official when you were the chief in Enfield. Do you plan to continue this? What will you do to work directly with the area’s youth?
EB: I do plan on continuing. I may also look at dropping one sport due to the magnitude of this job. It (sports officiating) is a segue into working with youth.
TDA: You worked as a funeral home director while you were chief of police in Enfield. Why did you choose this as a sideline and do you plan to continue this work?
EB: I had a friend of mine who introduced me into funeral service. It was a form of service to families in a time of sorrow. I find this was a way of providing service and not only service but a celebration of life. I’m looking at that more once I retire.