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Edenton police chief retires, takes ECSU prof's job

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Retiring Edenton police Chief Jay Fortenbery (center) is shown with Edenton Mayor Roland Vaughan (left) and Town Manager Anne-Marie following the graduation ceremony for the most recent Citizens Police Academy graduating class -- the last during Fortenbery's tenure.

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By Miles Layton and Rebecca Bunch
The Chowan Herald

Thursday, December 14, 2017

EDENTON — Edenton’s police chief is taking his crimefighter-teaching skills to a university classroom.

Jay Fortenbery retired from the Edenton Police Department earlier this month to pursue a second career as an assistant professor at Elizabeth City State University. Fortenbery, Edenton’s police chief since 2009, will teach criminal justice in ECSU’s Department of Sociology and Behavioral Science starting in January.

A state certified instructor who has been teaching classes in criminal justice since 1994, Fortenbery is making the career change after earning his doctorate in criminal justice from Nova Southeastern University earlier this year. Fortenbery said he wrote his doctoral thesis at the Florida college on the importance of law enforcement officers being healthy and in good physical shape.

During an interview prior to his June commencement ceremony at Nova Southeastern, Fortenbery said it had taken him three years to earn his doctorate.   

“It was a tough road and there were lot of weekends at home reading — a lot of hard work — but I’m glad I got it,” he said.

Fortenbery’s last day with the Edenton Police Department was Dec. 7 when he presided over a graduation ceremony for the final class of Edenton’s Citizens Police Academy. The program teaches local citizens about the job of law enforcement, giving them a better appreciation of its challenges and potential dangers.

Edenton Town Manager Anne-Marie Knighton said she will miss Fortenbery but is proud of him earning his PhD and taking his teaching skills to the classroom at ECSU. She said she also “loved the symbolism” that his last official act as the town’s police chief was to preside at the Citizens Police Academy graduation ceremony.

“Chief is fond of quoting Sir Robert Peele, a British prime minister who is considered to be the father of law enforcement — (and who said) ‘the police are the citizens and the citizens are the police.’ He teaches those principles in the Academy and worked to instilled same in the culture of the department,” Knighton said in a statement.

Fortenbery also liked the fact he capped his law enforcement career with the academy graduation ceremony. 

“It was a nice way to end,” he said. “We've had a lot of good feedback about the academy.”

Knighton has tapped Capt. Daroyall Brown to serve as Edenton’s interim police chief until a new chief can be hired.

She had high praise for Fortenbury’s tenure at the Edenton department, noting he started a number of initiatives including neighborhood policing and the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign. Under Fortenbery, the police department also participated in regional law enforcement task forces and a new police station was constructed on North Oakum Street. He also was a “strong proponent of training and professional development” for police officers, Knighton said.   

Fortenbery said he was particularly proud of the department’s outreach efforts to children and young people. Those efforts included handing out ice cream tickets to kids for good behavior, hosting meet-and-greet events with officers, and visiting the local Boys and Girls Club. Fortenbery said he hoped the relationships the department established help lead to more trust by young people of law enforcement.

Fortenbery had a very visible profile as police chief. He could be seen aboard the department’s police boat in Edenton Bay on events like the Fourth of July. Many mornings, he could be seen jogging laps around town, keeping himself in shape not just for his law enforcement duties but for the long-distance races he enjoys competing in.

Fortenbery also was a teacher long before he took the job at ECSU. He taught Basic Law Enforcement Training — the course all budding law enforcement officers are now required to take for certification — at both College of The Albemarle and Wilson Community College. Prior to coming to Edenton, he worked for the Rocky Mount Police Department.

Fortenbury and his family plan to remain in Edenton.

“Edenton is just such a beautiful community,” he said. “I love the water and the history of the town is part of my being drawn to it.”

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