After nearly four years on the job, Janie Schutz spent her last day as Wadesboro police chief on Monday. She will be sworn in as the chief of police in Forest Grove, Ore., next Wednesday.
Schutz said she believes she’s leaving the department in the very capable hands of Major Thedis Spencer, who began as interim chief Tuesday morning.
Serving as Wadesboro police chief was Schutz’s first job as a chief, and she said she hopes she’s leaving behind a legacy that “all people are important, regardless of the color of their skin.” When she came to Wadesboro, she said she had never experienced the racial tensions that exist in this community.
“It’s a culture I didn’t know,” she said. “I tried to respect the culture. You know, everyone’s different, but I try to treat everyone fairly.”
When she started the job as chief in March 2009, Schutz had many lofty goals. “I came here not understanding the needs of this town, in the areas of policing,” she said. “I knew what it was to be what I think is a good cop; I just didn’t know all the ins and outs of this culture. What I came into, it was like I was hit face-on by a Mack truck.”
Within her first three months on the job, Schutz was investigating her first homicide. Within six months, she received death threats from gang members. “My first day on the job, I made a traffic stop and floored everyone in this town,” she recalled. “And I still had a hard time grasping, ‘So, what does a chief do when she sees something illegal?’ Shouldn’t she do something about it?”
She said that the mentality of some people in town is that the chief should delegate those duties to someone else. “Because this town is not used to that, I took criticism galore,” she said, adding that she had hoped “the brotherhood of the police force” would outweigh the negativity she may have received from the public.
“I never quite achieved that part,” she said. “I’ve got my ideas why, but it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to say. I’ve come to accept the fact that it is what it is.”
Schutz said she probably averaged 10-12 hours on the job every day, because she felt the town needed her extra attention. “I have no regrets having done it my way.”
As for two unsolved homicides on her watch, Schutz said it is difficult to leave with those cases unresolved. However, she has assigned her homicide detectives to the N.C. Justice Academy to give them some insight. An expert with the justice academy has “combed over every piece of evidence” in the murder case of Sheri Evangelisti from February of this year, and Schutz said she has faith that her detectives will make an arrest in the case.
Schutz also planned to reopen the investigation into the other unsolved murder, of William Pickett in May 2009. An individual was arrested and charged with Pickett’s murder, and was held in prison for several months before the district attorney’s office released him.
“Mr. Pickett and Ms. Evangelisti didn’t deserve what happened,” she said. “No one does. … If I were staying here, I would continue to be pushing in order to make sure they do not get lost in the shuffle. My goal is that the detectives … will get Evangelisti done and then will go back to the cold case and reopen the Pickett case.”
Among her proudest accomplishments as a first-time chief was the drug operation with the FBI in which 17 “bad guys” were arrested in May 2010. She is also proud of the fact that under her watch, parking problems on Salisbury Street were alleviated.
“I did do the job well,” she said. “I do think Wadesboro’s a better place. It’s not perfect, but it’s better.”