KNIGHTDALE — The police cars are what first drew Tony Lashley to the Knightdale Police Department.
In the late 1990s, Lashley used to drive through the town on his way to his National Guard reserve unit in Raleigh. He was already a sworn officer in the Halifax County town of Enfield, but Knightdale’s police cars always caught his eye.
“I would see a police car sitting at the Exxon and it was clean … and I was like, ‘Man those cars look good.’ So one day I was driving through on my way back and stopped in to see if they were hiring,” he said.
Now after 17 years with Knightdale, Lashley will be giving up the clean, eye-catching vehicles so he can retire on May 31.
He said there were a few factors that made him feel like now was a good time for retirement.
“I can’t just say its one thing in particular,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of people come, a lot of people go (and) I’ve seen a lot of people stay until they have to be kicked out. I don’t want that, I want to go out on the high end when I’m still young and can go out and do other things.”
Right now, those other things only include relaxing. Lashley said there may be other plans on the horizon but for right now, taking it easy is the only item on his retirement agenda.
From Guam to North Carolina
Lashley started out in the military in the 1980s and was on active duty for seven years. After leavingthe military, he worked for a year in local businesses in Halifax County and then decided to pursue law enforcement.
His first law enforcement position was in Guam, where he stayed from 1991 to 1996.
“It’s pretty much just like (California) but you get to live on an island,” he said. After Guam, he came back to North Carolina and spent a little bit of time in Roanoke Rapids before coming to Knightdale.
Lashley began in Knightdale as a patrol officer in 1997 and moved up to the Sargeant rank in 2002.
Now, as a Captain and Division Commander, Lashley assists in managing the whole department.
Police Chief Jason Godwin said the department is currently looking for Lashley’s replacement internally and externally. Ideally, Godwin said, Lashley’s replacement will come in as soon as possible but it will depend on whether the department hires a candidate who is already with the department or brings in a new person to fill that role.
Saying goodbye to residents
Lashley said he’ll miss interacting with the people of Knightdale. He said residents’ friendliness made an impression on him.
“(There’s been a) transition from what (people call) ‘small town’ to not-as-small town, people come and go, but I think through it all, people have kept that generally small-town attitude,” Lashley said. “No matter where you go and who you talk to, (they’re) still nice.”
One resident has become one of the most memorable people Lashley has interacted with after responding to her domestic call about eight years ago.
About four years later, Lashley was working at the carnival that comes to town in early April and the same woman approached him to tell him thank you for his help the night she called.
“No matter where I am for the last five years now, she has spotted me in the crowd and (said) thanks,” Lashley said. “It touched me ... a lot of people say thank you but it’s expected and when someone comes out ... tells you an incident and tells you how much you impacted their lives, it really touched me.”
Even as the department and town are seeing some big changes, Lashley said he’s supportive of the direction, including the Police Department’s new vehicles – which he said would still attract him to apply to be an officer.
“I would definitely say it’s trendy, it really is a good pick ... for the way that we see Knightdale going,” he said.
Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews