by Joe Schwartz
Chapel Hill Police Chief Brian Curran is closing the case on his career in local law enforcement. His last day will be Nov. 30.
“I told the manager that I owed him another Halloween,” Curran said of the Franklin Street celebration. “The rules are the first day of retirement has to be the first day of the month, so unless I just walked out of the command center on Halloween and said, ‘See ya,’ I had to work November.”
The Chapel Hill Town Council has known of Curran’s retirement intentions since April, but they didn’t become public until Monday.
The announcement marks the beginning of the end of what will be a 28-year career with the Chapel Hill Police Department.
Curran’s promotion to chief in 2007 was part of a progression that began on foot patrol, and he says he had to learn how to politic rather than just police.
It became a “juggling act,” learning to balance the concerns of officers with the issues raised by community groups, he said.
“I tell people that being the chief is a lot like becoming a first-time parent,” Curran said. “You can read all the books and think you are ready to go, but you really don’t know what it’s going to be like until you are there. … You work at it, and you kind of make it through, but nothing really prepares for what it really is.”
He did offer praise in an April memo to the Town Council.
“Brian has brought stability and leadership to the department during some difficult times,” it reads. “I believe that Brian also epitomizes community policing in his career, focused on knowing the community you serve and building trusting relationships through community problem-solving.”
Stancil hired Curran, who served as interim chief when Gregg Jarvies retired and the original selected successor, Fayetteville Police Chief Tom McCarthy, failed his physical. He tapped Curran largely because of his understanding of Chapel Hill and for his leadership during the search.
He earned national praise for his calm and competent leadership throughout the Eve Carson murder case. Before he was chief, he investigated the infamous Wendell Williamson case on Franklin Street, during which the law school student opened fire downtown, killing two and wounding others.
As chief, Curran was charged with expanding community policing, better dividing duties among managers and developing new leaders.
Under Curran’s leadership, the department is crafting its first official strategic plan, formed through interviews with employees and listening sessions with the public. He’s also moved to a fixed shifts schedule for the patrol officers, meaning they no longer have to work nights and then rotate to mornings every two weeks, and promoted two men, Chris Blue and Bob Overton, to newly created assistant chief posts.
“We’ve got the ship pointed in the right direction, and the right people in the right spots,” Curran said. “I’m really confident that the initiatives that we’ve got here will be carried out.”
Curran hopes his replacement will be an internal hire.
“The manager is looking that way now,” he said. “Of course, he reserves the right to make the appointment as he sees fit, whether inside or outside.”
Town Manager Roger Stancil is out of town attending conferences until next week and was unavailable for comment.
As for his own future plans, Curran says he’ll relax, learn to play tennis, refine his golf swing, visit family and consider security-consulting opportunities as they arise. His daughter attends East Chapel Hill High School and his wife works at UNC Hospitals in the intensive care unit, so the Currans don’t plan to leave the Triangle any time soon.
“This is our home,” he said.