The first police officer to ever retire from the city of Locust counts it a blessing to have worked with “the finest people” in a community that has changed considerably during his years of service.Capt. Charles Connell recently concluded a career of almost 35 years in law enforcement.In 1978, the Locust Police Department was a one-man operation. Connell, an army veteran with service in Vietnam and a volunteer firefighter, was asked whether he’d be interested in joining the force part time. He attended the Charlotte Police Academy with Ray Kennedy, another recruit, and then began working every other weekend. Only one officer was on duty at any given time then: The chief during the week, and Connell or Kennedy on the weekends.After four years of part-time police work in Locust – and while also working full-time for the Standard Trucking Co. – Connell took a part-time position in Stanfield and ended up working there for 11 years, the last four as acting chief of police.The Stanfield and Locust forces merged for a while, but when that union was dissolved, Connell had an opportunity to return to the Locust force, where he became a full-time officer in 1995.Meanwhile, Connell continued to serve as a volunteer firefighter until 2002, when he and his wife, Barbara, opened a business in Locust. It was called “Main Street Billiards and Games”, and was located in the space now occupied by The Fresh House restaurant. Connell said his goal was to give kids a place to go and something to do.The game room closed after five years when, Connell said, kids became more interested in the Internet than hanging out at his place. Still, he believes the game room served its purpose for its time.I asked Connell what the daily routine is like for a small-town police officer.“We did it all,” he said. Answering calls could mean anything from giving assistance to responding to domestic disputes and handling crime scenes. When talking about routine patrols, he chuckled: “It’s never routine.”Connell saw a lot of changes to the city of Locust and to the police department during the years he served there. The force has grown from one full-time and two part-time employees to a group of 15. But one thing never changed: Connell said he tried every day to be a better officer and to learn something new.“The day you start thinking you know it all is the day you’d better take your badge off,” he said.He said he hopes the community will remember him as “tough, but fair.”More than the awards and honors he’s won over the years, Connell said, he always tried his best to make the community safer and to always “strive to treat people like you want to be treated.”
Monday, Feb. 25, 2013
Department has grown while Locust officer served
After 35 years, Connell is city’s first police retiree
Retired Locust police Capt. Charles Connell poses beside some of his awards in his Stanfield home.
Capt. Charles Connell recently became the first police officer to retire from the Locust department.
Marcia Morris is a freelance columnist. Have a story idea for Marcia? Email her at EasternCabarrusWriter@gmail.com.
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