In what some may consider an unexpected move, Mayor Terrance Culbreath appointed Lamaz Robinson as Johnston’s new Chief of Police, Wednesday, Sept. 10. Described as unexpected because Mayor Culbreath had previously stated that while he did have appointing power for this position, he was going to bring the matter before Johnston’s Town Council to be voted on. Additionally, he had said publicly that the position would be opened in October to candidates who wished to apply for the job.
So what brought about this bold move? In an interview Thursday morning with The Advertiser, Mayor Culbreath explained that the matter was taken up by Johnston Council in executive session at their meeting Monday, Sept. 8. He said that in that meeting members “laid out their feelings” on the matter and in the end he had “enough support from Council” to go ahead with the appointment. Culbreath stated that the majority of the Council was in favor of Robinson as the new chief and that they respected Robinson for staying with the town when he had “countless opportunities to leave.” Mayor Culbreath further added that the decision to wait until October to fill the position was abandoned because after receiving “countless referral references” of support for Robinson both in and outside the Johnston community and within law enforcement, acting now on the matter was seen as chance to go ahead make Robinson, who has been acting as Interim Chief since Chris Aston’s retirement, the official new head of law enforcement in the town.
Mayor Culbreath said he was aware that there were other people who wished to apply for the position but that what made Robinson different from these other possible candidates was that he “has been here ten years … he’s done the job and worked through the ranks.” Culbreath explained that upon the leaving of former Chief Aston, the town of Johnston was left in somewhat of a tumultuous position as far as law enforcement; they were short staffed on officers, had lost their leader, and rumors were swirling about a possible take over from the Sheriff‘s Office. However, Culbreath said that through it all Robinson “has been here – right here.” The mayor went on to say that while Robinson has been acting as interim chief, “I’ve seen the progress … he’s here all the time. Previously we haven’t had that.” Culbreath added it would have been a “slap in the face not to give him a chance.”
Mayor Culbreath said he understood there may be fallout from his appointment of this position but called on anyone with an issue to speak with him. “I’m at Town Hall, he said. “Stop by.” However, the mayor said that the town of Johnston has “bigger to fish to fry in the future” than this hiring, adding that the town has some good things planned and that this was just the beginning.
Lamaz Robinson’s first official day as new Chief of Police was Thursday, Sept. 11. Of his hiring, he told The Advertiser, “I’m really excited.” Chief Robinson explained that he will be doing a comprehensive evaluation of the police department, including inventory and personnel, that may take several weeks. He said based on those findings, there may be a need to hire an additional officer, but that he does not plan on specifically filling his position, which, as a lieutenant, was considered an executive position. Chief Robinson said his goal is for operational transparency within the department and that he wants the police department to rise to “the highest level of excellence we can achieve.”