7 June 2022
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue is retiring on Dec. 31.
Blue was sworn in as a patrol officer in November of 1997 and became chief in December 2010.
On Tuesday, Blue told WRAL News that leaving his policing job in his hometown is bittersweet.
“It just feels like a good time,” Blue said. “There’s still a lot of life out there, and I want to see what the future might hold.”
Blue said he’s seen plenty of change during his 25 years in withe the Chapel Hill Police Department. He said success used to be measured in how large your stack of paperwork was at the end of the day. Now, not only are reports done digitally, but metrics for success have also changed.
“It’s really not a measure of how big your pile of paperwork is, it’s are you providing service to your community the way that they want to be served?” Blue said. “Particularly, when it comes to enforcement actions, are enforcement actions solving the problem? Those are not questions that I’ve found we were asking a whole lot 25 years ago, but I think we are now.”
During Blue’s 12-year tenure, he led the department through the 2015 investigation into the triple murder of Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha.
Last September, the Chapel Hill Police Department also arrested a suspect for the 2012 murder of UNC student Faith Hedgepeth.
Blue spearheaded police response and preparation for three UNC NCAA basketball Final Four appearances, and he worked to reduce the impacts of Halloween on Franklin Street.
During Blue’s time as chief, the Chapel Hill Police Crisis Unit has continued to expand. It was founded in 1972.
“There’s nobody who works here now who ever worked here without that kind of resource being a part of our team,” Blue said. “We’ve seen time and time again that having an additional resource, in addition to that police officer, or sometimes instead of that police officer is very, very valuable.”
The Chapel Hill Police Department is adding a new position this month.
“We’re about to add our first peer support position, which will be someone who has had some lived experience around mental health challenges, or substance abuse issues, or homelessness, or interaction with the criminal justice sysem, folks who can talk with some of our clients, or some of our community, from a place of their own experience,” Blue said.
Blue said police are currently under a microscope, but he believes it’s important to push back on old ideas.
“Our profession is changing, and I think in many ways, overdue changes are here and are still out there on the horizon for us,” Blue said. “It’s right that we examine policing, but we need policing in our communities, good, thoughtful policing in our communities, right-sized to what our communities’ expectations and challenges are.”
Blue says he hopes the next chief will listen to the community and be accessible to the public, and he adds that he will remain accessible and available for any help. He says he’ll miss the people at CHPD the most.
“The relationships we form in police departments are some of the strongest I’ve ever seen. You have to work like a team if you’re going to be successful,” Blue said. “The idea of not being part of that team anymore is actually very, very scary for me, and actually makes me very sad, but I also would say to folks who want to be part of something biggest than themselves, and want to make a difference every single day, then going to work for your local police department is where it’s at.”
The town of Chapel Hill is working on its hiring process for the next chief. The town plans to provide opportunities for public input.
The town’s goal is to hire the next chief before Blue’s retirement.