Matthews Police Chief Rob Hunter retiring after 24 years as town's top cop

MATTHEWS, NC (WBTV) - Chief Rob Hunter is leaving the Matthews Police Department. Considering he's been there since 1987 when he started as a police officer then became chief in 1993, it's hard to imagine the department without him.

"I'm ready to walk away," Chief Hunter said.

Hunter says he's ready because he's leaving the department on the right track. He remembers when he started 30 years ago.

"There were some good people here, and there were a lot of people should not have been carrying a badge and a gun, and I had much difficulty being associated with the department," he said. "Typical southern redneck police department, unfortunately. They really weren't engaged with the community. A lot... some of them would follow their personal sentiments as to who they would stop and who they would target - those types of things."

Chief Hunter says his early years taught him what policing should be like. When he was offered the job of interim police chief, he eventually became full-time chief and set out to change the philosophy.

"I do think that probably the greatest change here has been not only the quality of the staff or the employees, but their focus and their passion. Very much engaged with the community here," Hunter said. "I feel very much comforted and happy stepping out of my career here seeing that I had kind of a part of that."

Much has changed since he put on the Matthews Police badge.

"When I started here, the population was barely over 5,000. We're around 31 to 32,000 right now," Hunter said.

Now, the department with a staff of 75 - including 58 sworn officers - answer approximately 150 calls for service every day. A majority of those are car crashes and property crimes.

Police technology has also advanced.

The chief says while the portable police radio has been tremendous for internal communication, the body-worn cameras that officers wear was a marquee moment for policing.

"I don't think officers necessarily behave differently because they think they're being videoed, but if they do as a chief I don't think that's a bad thing," Hunter said. "We should know that we have to hold ourselves to a higher level of control and expectation and also we had better accept we're going to be held to that higher level of expectation."

Of most importance to the chief is community engagement.

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