Wilmington’s new Deputy Police Chief believes that building stronger relationships between the department and its citizens is the key towards better policing.
In fact, Deputy Chief Donny Williams, 45, is a firm believer in community policing, and now that he is in the number two spot, expect him to do all that he can to make community policing a greater hallmark of the WPD and, ultimately, Wilmington a better place for all to live.
A born and bred Wilmingtonian, Deputy Chief Williams has been a member of the WPD for 26 years, starting in 1989 as a teenage summer youth worker. In an exclusive interview with The Wilmington Journal, Williams recalled growing up as a youth in one of the Port City’s public housing developments.
“I had always wanted to be a police officer,” he said, “The program was for at-risk kids, and, luckily, I got placed at the WPD between my junior and senior years in high school.”
In 1990, Williams was hired as a patrol officer. From then on, he worked in various patrol and special assignment positions, spanning crime prevention, housing, and even D. A. R. E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education).
Today he also oversees the department’s summer youth program, which he started in 1995.
Moving up the promotion ladder, Williams’ keen management skills were put to work when he became Police Captain. He managed the WPD’s Support Services Division, in addition to the department’s largest patrol division, its $24 million budget, and the development and design of the new WPD’s training facility.
Williams believes that about 14 percent of the WPD is African-American, though he suspects that that percentage has fluctuated in recent years. According to City-Data.com, as of 2014 the Black population of Wilmington was approximately 18.7%, or just under 21,000 residents.
While Williams agrees that having a police force that closely reflects the community it protects in terms of racial makeup has its merits, he lauds his Caucasian officers for their work and effort in getting to know the communities of color they patrol better and building bonds with the people there.
Asked to describe the Wilmington that he knows and loves, Deputy Chief Williams said, “Wilmington is rich in culture and rich in history. It is a place of opportunity, and a melting pot here.”
He noted that, like other parts of the country, the Port City is dealing with a heroin epidemic, which law enforcement is working on. It is also experiencing growing traffic congestion.
Yet, Williams says Wilmington is large enough “where at some point you can get lost if you want to…”, but small enough “to where if you go out, people are going to know who you are.”
And what can citizens do to help law enforcement do their jobs better? Williams says, “If you see something wrong, let them know. The police can’t do their jobs better unless the people they protect are proactive in informing them when they see something out of place that could be a crime.”
Deputy Chief Williams is single, but, according to him, “I’m in the process of getting married.” Most of his family lives in Wilmington, and while he doesn’t know what the future ultimately holds, Wilmington, the city in which he grew up, is the only home he ever wants to know.
“This is where I was born,” Williams says, “and I don’t plan on leaving.”