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Protecting and serving WPD honors officers, agencies who helped during Matthew

In the days after Hurricane Matthew, Whiteville Police Chief Jeff Rosier said one thing he will always remember is seeing how all his officers looked exhausted.

“We all worked double shifts,” he said Tuesday. “It wasn’t enough we had to prepare the city for the hurricane. We all had to say goodbye to our families, and make sure they were safe, since there was no telling when we’d be back.

“He had no idea it would be six days before some of us got to go home.”

Rosier and the city council on Tuesday officially thanked the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office and Wilmington Police for working with the Whiteville Police by providing extra manpower during the aftermath of the hurricane.

“Our officers were helping Whiteville Fire with rescues during the storm,” he said. “They would get people out, and we would transport them to the shelter. We had to secure the shelter, and still patrol the city.”

When the winds died down and the sun came out, the real work was just starting Rosier said. Floodwaters rolled through the downtown area, damaging businesses and breaking open windows and doors. As the water began to drop, merchants were allowed back into their stores to begin the drying out process – which involved thousands of dollars of property being laid on the sidewalk to dry.

“By that point, everybody was tired out,” Rosier said. “There was no electricity downtown, and no way to secure things. We had to have officers there around the clock to keep out the sightseers and prevent looting.”

Rosier said he “made some phone calls” after seeing the effect 24-hour shifts were having on his department, and help was soon on the way.

“Without the county and the Wilmington Police,” he said, “it would have been much harder to secure everything.”

Manager Darren Currie and Mayor Terry Mann presented 27 Rosier certificates and special ribbons to Wilmington officers, sheriff’s deputies and WPD officers Tuesday. In addition to the WPD staff, deputies Samantha Hickman, Steven Moore, William Scott and Heath Williams received the awards. Wilmington officers included Sgt. Kelly Sipe, Cpl. Jeremy Bland and Officers Melanie Medlock and Dwayne Ouelette. The latter two Wilmington officers were unable to attend.

Captain Patrick Williams of the Wilmington Police said his department was happy to help.

“We all help each other out when there’s an emergency,” he said.

Rosier noted that after going home to the Port City, the Wilmington department as a whole sent meals to Whiteville Police.

“That did so much for our morale,” Rosier said. “We had so many church groups and others who just kept the food coming in. It’s tough when you’re away from home in a situation like this, and the guys from Wilmington knew what we were going through. It was just   a very thoughtful gesture.”

Closer to home, Rosier said, the sheriff’s department filled in a number of gaps for the city, despite having a full plate with flooding, storm damage and other problems across the county.

“This was something that when you look at it, you don’t know how you’re going to get through it,” Columbus County Sheriff Lewis Hatcher said. “But we kept on trying, and it all came together. We’re always happy to help where we can. This was a trying event for all of us.”

Rosier made a point of recognizing Technical Services Manager Edna Dowless, who ran the police department’s operations center, and Animal Control Officer Elijah Kemp, “who seemed to do everything.”

Mann also thanked the officers, noting that because of their efforts downtown, his business was able to salvage more merchandise.

“We had everything sitting out on the street drying,” Mann said. “If it weren’t for you guys and ladies being out there around the clock, keeping us safe, it would have been much worse.”