Brian James: Homegrown Crimefighter

Greensboro Police Chief Brian James

Greensboro Police Chief Brian James
Thus far, 2020 has been anything but a banner year for Greensboro. Except for Charlotte, the Gate City area has had more deaths resulting from COVID-19 than any other locality in the state. And so, we tend to forget that on February 1, the citizens of Greensboro actually had some good news to celebrate. That’s the day Brian James was sworn in as the city’s 23rd Chief of Police. James, who has served on the police force for over two decades, is a native of Greensboro, attended Page High School, and was graduated from NC A&T. Chief James stopped by the Triad Today studio in March to talk about his promotion, and the challenges he faces in his new job.

 


Jim: Who or what led you to a career in law enforcement?

Brian: It was actually one of my neighbors who was a police officer. His name is Tony Phifer. He’s a retired captain with the Greensboro Police Department, so he was the first police officer I really knew and gave me an interest in law enforcement.

Jim: How old were you when you met Tony?

Brian: Probably high school, around 16 or 17 years old, and he had just gotten on the police force back then.

Jim: You recently completed a series of community meetings. What have you learned from them?

Brian: We look at stats all the time. We look at crime figures to determine where our people should be, and where we should try and improve our services. But you really can’t substitute talking with people. And what I’ve learned is there are a lot of problems that don’t show up in crime numbers, and there are things we should be concerned about. In some areas of town, a particular problem may not pop up as a crime stat, but it is an issue that law enforcement should address.

Jim: A lot of people of color who I talk with either have a distrust of, or a disdain for police. What are you going to do to try and change that dynamic?

Brian: Part of the strategy is getting out in front of people, so I’ve got to be that face, and I want all of my people to follow that lead. I want us to be able get out in front of people, talk about issues, whether they’re good or bad. And if we’ve made a mistake, we want to admit to it and fix it as quick as possible. But really find out on the front end what people are seeing that they don’t like, and maybe there’s some things we can correct before they happen. So I think to build that trust they have to get to know me as a person, and once they get to know me, hopefully they’ll get to trust me.

Jim: Get to know you as a person and not as a uniform.

Brian: Correct.

Jim: Let’s talk about gun violence, which isn’t just a problem in Greensboro. It’s all over the state. Are you in favor of tighter restrictions on guns?, and if so, where does that put you with the folks who might think you’re trying to take their guns away?

Brian: I am for responsible gun ownership. For people who can legally possess guns, I certainly support that. But, at the same time, if you’re a gun owner, you have to be responsible in how you care for that firearm. I’ll give you an example. We have a number of guns that are stolen out of vehicles, and those guns end up in the hands of criminals, and they do harm with those guns. So we have to think about that aspect of it.

Jim: Given your background growing up here, what does it mean to you personally that you’re now the police chief of YOUR city?

Brian: It’s incredible. I think about how I was primarily raised by my mom, a single mom. I went to school right here in Greensboro, went to Page High School, went to A&T, and quite frankly I just wanted to be a police officer, I wasn’t thinking about being the police chief. I had some great opportunities that put me in a position where I could legitimately compete for it, and fortunately I got the job.

 


We’re all fortunate that Chief James got the job, and we wish him well.

 
 

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