We recently had a chance to sit down with a mostly intimidating bunch of Wake Forest Police Department staff members and talk to them candidly about the Wake Forest Police Department and discuss some issues that our Facebook friends were curious about. If you are not following us on Facebook, what is wrong with you?
Without a doubt, the number one question people wanted us to ask was why do cops prefer donuts so much.
As usual the Wake Forest Police Department has to be all cutting edge since the prevailing attitude was bagels were better than donuts by a three to one margin. The only dedicated donut fanatic was Chief Jeff Leonard, a man that obviously places great value in tradition. Chocolate glazed is his favorite. He’s got good taste in our book.
Leonard is Wake Forest through and through. He is a lifelong resident of Wake Forest, graduated from Wake Forest-Rolesville High School, and proudly calls Wake Forest home even today. Some even joke Leonard was even born at WFPD since he’s been there so long. We’d bet blue is his favorite color.
Chief Leonard compares the Wake Forest of his youth with the Wake Forest today as two almost completely different places. When he was growing up here the population was a small fraction of what it is now. The entire Town back then was not big at all.
More disturbing were the stories that Leonard and Detective Kim Warren shared about how all places to get anything to eat closed up by 10 PM. If you didn’t get something to eat before then you were sure out of luck. Not a 24 hour place in Town. We’ve got goose bumps thinking about that.
Chief Leonard, who should have an official Indian name like “Man Who Patrolled Much,” attributes his success to the cooperation of the Town administration and to the talent, skill and professionalism of the Wake Forest Police Department. You know normally we’d consider a statement like that as a load of fertilizer but after having spent time covering the Wake Forest Police Department we understand what he means.
We’ve worked with other departments before and even worked as a police dispatcher in college and WFPD stands out specifically by the friendliness and approachability of the officers and staff here. That kind of culture must be driven by the top cop or it would not be force wide.
Captain Darren Abbacchi was also there for the interview but either managed to be called out of the room on police business when we took the group shot or he strategically planned his absence so he’d be singularly featured in his own photo. Well done.
Besides sharing a lot of information about all the good work the department does we could not help but also admit to thoroughly enjoying a number of belly laughs over the stories the crew shared during our time with them.
Captain Abbacchi said one of his more memorable WFPD moments was one night when he was on patrol and pulled a speeder over.
Abbacchi walks up to the driver window and the driver attempts to persuade him to let him go.
“Do you know Abbacchi? We’re tight and real good buddies,” the driver said.
“I’ve heard of him,” Abbacchi said.
The driver left with a ticket with Abbacchi’s name proudly printed on the bottom of it.
Hat Tip to Detective Warren
We’ve really got to give major props to Detective Warren coming in on her day off to talk to us about a WFPD program that is near and dear to her heart. Secretly we think she just wanted to promote her love of Duke to a wider audience.
In the late 1990s, Warren and Detective Cindy Perry decided they wanted to go shopping on PD time. Actually we don’t know if that’s true at all. But what they really wanted to do was start an annual Christmas program called Shop for a Cop where perpetrators could pick the officer that would arrest them in the upcoming year. No wait, that’s not right either.
The real program is called Shop With a Cop. See now here is where the WFPD revels facts about themselves that would totally ruin their street cred if they got out. These men and women have heart. In fact they have a community centered heart so big it would blow your mind. Kaboom!
Shop with a Cop pairs up a young struggling member of the Wake Forest community with an officer on the Wake Forest force. The cop and kid team spend $175 on holiday gifts for the child and if the child does not have an adequate winter coat, that’s added on top as part of the deal as well. A surprising fact from the program is how many kids want to spend the majority of the money on others instead of themselves. Kudos to the kids.
The program often helps children who have experienced traumatic recent events in their lives, including a less than optimal parental interaction with law enforcement in the preceding year. It’s an opportunity to help kids see the Wake Forest Police in a different way.
After listening to the stories that came from all in attendance we were left wondering who got more out of the event, the kids who left joyous and grateful or the tough cops who really bonded with the kids and even silently reached into their own wallets to do as much as they could for community kids in need.
We are probably not supposed to share this fact but apparently tough Captain Abbacchi is particular skilled at helping little girls get their Christmas shopping done and not afraid to man up and do some damage on the doll and makeup isle.
Currently the program can handle about 35 kids a year and massive props to Walmart who has done a lot to make this event possible.
Busted at Walmart
You know that expression crooks are stupid? Well one of the stories shared about the Shop with a Cop program typifies that statement.
One year some shoplifters were unlucky enough to be flat out running out of Walmart with store personnel in hot pursuit. At that very moment 35 Wake Forest police units rolled into the parking lot for the Shop With a Cop outing. They descended down the hill towards the store and the shoplifters were easily apprehended. You know those shoplifters had to have muttered to themselves, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” as they looked up to see the police presence out front.
The police department described that moment as the most extensive and secure permitter ever seen at the scene of a crime as all those patrol units surrounding the front of the store.
The first group of kids in this program is now old enough to be grown and out in the world. Detective Warren mentioned how she ran into one of her first kids in the program as a server at Olive Garden and he made it a point to thank her for the experience.
Wake Forest Loves Our Police Officers
We take for granted that our local police are nice, polite, and kind individuals when we are not doing stupid stuff. That’s just who they are.
But it was surprising to hear stories of how new cops who worked in other cities and towns before they came here didn’t know how to take in community kindness at first. Some said they only waves they ever got where the used to work were with one finger but here people wave to them just driving down the street with all the fingers and a thumb involved.
Sometimes police officers are randomly surprised when someone will anonymously pickup their lunch bill or do some other random act of kindness. That’s something we should probably do more often.
Who doesn’t like to be acknowledged for doing a good job?
D.A.R.E. – Carnival – National Night Out – Neighborhood Watch
Officer Scott Graham runs the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program in town and deals with loads of schools in the area. He takes time to help kids to understand the purpose of the police department and the outright truth that doing illegal things leads to consequences.
He’s working with kids so much we are surprised he’s not packing a squirt gun instead of his police issued weapon and a PEZ dispenser instead of a taser.
Graham is the guy that hangs out with that McGruff dog and teaches kids all about stranger danger.
He works with kids from kindergarten on up, including homeschool kids in the area. The young kids love to meet the K-9 members and he enjoys taking them on tours of the station.
Officer Graham is very involved with that huge carnival held in the Home Depot parking lot each year. The carnival is actually the “Wake Forest Police Carnival for the Kids” and the department receives part of the proceeds to help run the D.A.R.E. program. We absolutely did not know that.
Graham also gave the Town of Wake Forest two thumbs up for the Wake Forest application you can download on your smartphone to use to stay in touch and report stuff. You should get it, it’s free, and very handy.
When it comes to his duties with the Neighborhood Watch program, Graham says the message he tries to get out to every community is it’s always a good idea to never hesitate to call WFPD for anything that concerns you. You can even call anonymously.
But What Number Should You Call?
While we all know 911 as the number to call in an emergency, the Wake Forest Police can be easily reached at 919-556-9111. Calling that number gets help faster.
When you call 911 the call actually goes to Raleigh where the call taker passes the information to a dispatcher who calls Wake Forest where it gets entered again here and then dispatched from Wake Forest.
So while you are reading this, program 919-556-9111 in your phone to get in touch with the Wake Forest Police Department. For fire and EMS, keep calling 911.
Turkey Man – Detective Michael Sattler
Detective Sattler runs the free Thanksgiving turkey giveaway program in town. It is a generous program that helps Town residents benefit from the kindness of others. Department members who participate in the program say it’s not unusual for them to get hugs and whispers of thanks by people lucky enough to get a free bird. Give a turkey, get a hug.
This year people began lining up at 5:30 AM for the giveaway which began at 9 AM and 700 turkeys were given away. The first year, 2007, they gave away just 75 birds. Sattler hopes the program will be able to expand to give away more than just the turkey including side dishes and maybe a hot meal as well.
Sweet potatoes also managed to be given away this year from the generosity of community volunteers who had gone back to fields that had already been picked, and harvested the remaining small or missed sweet potatoes. The department wound up with a pickup truck and trailer full of these free Ipomoea batatas’ to hand out as well.
Financial donations towards the turkey program may be made all year long and checks can be dropped off at the Police Department.
No matter how badly we wanted to avoid saying this we just have to, when you think of turkeys, think of Sattler. He’s the man that handles this awesome program.
Lock Your Damn Doors
It seems that in our primarily safe town the incidents that create the most angst for the police department are the property crime ones that could have been easily avoided.
As ridiculously simple as it sounds the best thing people can do to avoid having things stolen is just to lock the car doors, house doors, and stop leaving expensive things in view in the car. A new laptop on a car seat is just an invitation for you to lose it. Leaving your cars unlocked outside just makes it stupid easy for someone to reach in and grab that laptop, purse, guns (yes, guns), or other things.
Locking your doors doesn’t mean Wake Forest is now a less safe place to live. It just means you are done with putting out the invitation to easily rob you. Burglars would rather keep trying to find the unlocked car than break in to yours. If your car is locked they will move on.
And yes, we get it, if you live in places like Heritage, bad people should not reach into your vehicle and steal stuff so why should you have to lock your doors? That is an excellent talk radio show question. But the bottom line is crimes of opportunity occur in every neighborhood, good or bad. If you don’t feel you should lock your car doors and you don’t want someone to enter your car then just put your good stuff on the hood so they can get to it easier.
So from the Wake Forest Police Department to all Town residents, “Please lock your doors.”
Then They Started Sharing Some Funny Stories
Chief Leonard told the story from when he was in a patrol vehicle that was actually a pickup truck. A guy pulled up next to him in another pickup truck and started racing the engine and then raced hime off the line. Leonard let him get ahead of him and followed him off the exit ramp where he pulled him over.
Leonard asked the driver, “Do you know why I stopped you?”
The driver said, “Yea I was playing with that guy back and the light.” He never even noticed Leonard was in a marked police pickup truck.
Abbacchi mentioned he’s actually had to stop a small car with 12 foot piece of lumber stuck through the car sideways, with four feet hanging out each side. And then there was the time he stopped a motorcycle rider who just bought an air tank at Lowe’s and was dragging it home bouncing down the road only tied with a piece of rope to the back of his motorcycle.
He also told the story of how we was sitting at a stop sign with two motorcycles behind him. One of the bikers decided that was the perfect moment to lock his front brake and do a burn out. Abbacchi flipped on the lights and in the rearview mirror he said he just saw the biker hang his head.
Sattler told the story of one person who was pulled over for suspected impaired driving but said he could not perform the field sobriety tests. When asked why not he said, “Because I’m drunk.”
Another story was about a suspect in a murder who immediately asked for an attorney and then said, “Can I please speak to the wife of the man I just killed.” That was probably the shortest interrogation ever.
Then there was the story that came out of this group about a cow years ago that was struck on Capital Blvd. Right after the cow was struck someone asked the police if they could take the cow away to butcher it. That sure seemed like a logical request and a good use for the already dead cow. Besides, it would quickly get it off the side of the road.
Well it turns out the well intentioned person “bit off more than they could chew” and decided the cow was too heavy to move so they proceeded to butcher the thing right on the side of the road by chopping it apart with a hatchet.
Blood was flying everywhere and kids were probably traumatized but that guy got a year supply of pre-tenderized beef.
That’s the last time that will probably ever happen.
But the funny stories also included the early days of the police department when, some of these folks started. Back then there were no computers. They had to write out reports by hand and drop them off to be typed by the secretary on the one department typewriter.
Once the report was typed the secretary would stamp it with a smiley face so you knew the report was finalized. Yea, nothing says tough cop like a police report with a smiley face on it.
Actually when some of these folks started the department still took mug shots with a 35mm camera and had to take the film to Revco to be developed. They did the whole board around the neck and everything. We wonder if they hit them with a smiley face as well to indicate they’d had their mug shot taken.
We finally go around to asking some of the questions readers had submitted on our Facebook page for this interview.
Can you do more about speeders?
This was an interesting subject. While some feel the cops are not doing enough to catch speeders, it’s not like they don’t have other things to do. They can’t do everything at once.
What we learned was when the police department receives multiple complaints of speeders in an area they will focus efforts in that spot. If you want to get attention to local speeder in your area, you’ve got to call and tell them about the situation. They are good but not mind readers.
The traffic enforcement units are separate from patrol units so there is personnel that is already dedicated to traffic enforcement issues.
WFPD hopes to expand their traffic enforcement unit with the addition of new officers. One direct correlation they have noticed is as members of the traffic unit have ben called away to deal with other issues the number of accidents in Wake Forest has increased.
When Wake Forest had more manpower dedicated to traffic enforcement the department was writing a staggering number of charges. Our little Wake Forest department was only 300 charges short of what Charlotte wrote in the same month with an enforcement unit five times as big.
Of course, you just know once the traffic enforcement unit expands again and gets back to writing tickets the complaint is going to be why does Wake Forest write so many tickets.
How can we keep Wake Forest resident vigilant but not fearful?
There is no replacement for community involvement they said. You can pick up the phone and call WFPD and report something that worries you, anonymously. The police department can’t address or fix what they don’t know is broken.
But they said it is also very important to understand that we do have a very low crime rate for the size of our population and we do live in a very safe area. Just because we are talking about crime does not mean it is anywhere as bad as many other areas across the nation and nearby.
Captain Abbacchi echoed what Office Graham said earlier, “If you feel something isn’t right, make the call.”
What’s your favorite model police car?
While Sattler preferred the traditional Crown Vic and Warren was partial to her Impala, the rest of the group liked the new Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs.
Not only can the Tahoe carry more equipment but they provide better visibility and are safer to drive. They are just as fast and nimble as the cars.
Plus, they buy these SUVs at a special low contract price and they have substantially more resale value than the older cruisers do. We should probably expect to see more of these units on the force.
The longer they keep the vehicles the more expensive they become to repair. So WFPD purchases these vehicles new and keeps them till they have a little over 60,000 miles on the odometer. Now that might seem like low mileage but you have to remember the police vehicles speed a significant amount of time idling which still creates wear and tear on the engines. A low mileage vehicle can easily get to a point where the engine is worn out with an equivalent value of something like 200,000+ miles on the engine after only three years.
With the old Crown Vic the resale value was somewhere in the $1,500 range, with the new Tahoe trucks they are getting about 80% of the purchase price back. That’s just smart.
What piece of equipment do you think we need but don’t have?
It was unanimous, a mobile command center would be a nice tool to have. Of course they were impressed by our suggestion for the hot chocolate and panini truck.
It is tool the Town administration, Police, and Fire Department could all use not only for emergency situations but also a lot community events.
Want to see what we think the new mobile command center should be like? You can open our suggestions below.
We are sensing any mobile command center in our future that might be painted green, blue, and red. It would go nicely with the hot chocolate truck. Just sayin’.
Why are you following me around?
The police have a lot of things to do besides follow you around. If they pull into the Walmart parking lot behind you it just means they need to go to Walmart too.
Just because you got pulled over six months ago and a police officer is behind you now does not mean you are being followed. It’s a little something we like to call a coincidence.
Why are officers doing nothing and just sitting and talking to each other in their squad cars?
Now this answer surprised us. It turns out in the past it was common for officers to flock to certain areas, not to just hang out, but because there were parts of town that had better signals to file reports and do work.
Today, the most common reason to see police officers meeting up is to exchange information or queue up for some raid, or warrant to be served.
Hope that Helps You Get to Know The Wake Forest Police Department
The whole purpose of this article was to help you get to know some of the officers and some of the things the Wake Forest Police Department is involved in. A huge hat tip and kudos to them for taking the time to share their experiences and stories with us.
And also a big thank you to our loved Facebook followers who volunteered questions for the interview.