By C.V. Moore
Sworn in on Wednesday, Fayetteville’s new chief of police says he wants to get the department more involved with the community.
Matt Jeffries of Fayetteville replaces Sam Parsons as chief of the 9-member force. Parsons left his post after less than two years to become a Fayette County magistrate.
“I wanted someone who could sit down and have a cup of coffee with a local business owner, or someone who could go into the schools and talk to the kids,” says Fayetteville Mayor Jim Akers.
Jeffries, who grew up in Fayetteville, remembers when Chief Tunney Hunsaker used to walk the streets of town checking up on people, escorting the elderly home, or serving as a crossing guard. Hunsaker, a professional boxer who served as chief for 38 years, was known for his humanitarian gestures.
“He’d be out there walking the streets and everybody knew him. There was more interaction,” says Jeffries. “I think this department has drifted away from that.”
Fayetteville’s force has in recent years been associated instead with a “speed trap” on U.S. Route 19.
“There needs to be some traffic enforcement because there are a lot of bad accidents along 19, but I don’t think that should be the primary thing the department is known for,” says Jeffries.
“I want to be known for being involved with the community more than writing tickets.”
That means he’d like to see officers getting out of their cars and doing foot patrols. He’d like to see them talking to people, both young and old.
Jeffries says he is interested in starting a registry of Alzheimer’s patients to help locate those who wander away from homes. His own father had the disease.
The town council voted in December to hire Jeffries over two other final candidates who were already members of the Fayetteville Police Department.
Jeffries wasn’t promoted from within the force, but his connections in Fayetteville are strong.
He grew up in Fayetteville, attended local schools, and has lived here for all but 10 years of his life. During that time, he lived nearby in Beckley and Oak Hill.
He joined the Beckley Police Department in 1990, following a lifelong dream of working in law enforcement because he says it’s a way of helping people.
In 2001, he took a job with Nationwide Insurance doing fraud investigations that came with a significant pay bump.
For the past eight years, he has simultaneously worked part-time for the Mount Hope Police Department.
When it became common knowledge that Parsons would be moving on to the magistrate position, Jeffries says he was approached by several people asking him to apply for the job.
At first he didn’t think he was interested, but as he thought more about it, his attitude changed.
“This opportunity came up where I could be here at home. I could walk to work if I wanted to.
“Plus, Fayetteville is a good department. I know most of the officers and worked with several of them in Mount Hope. I knew they were good guys. The council backs them financially and they have pretty good equipment.”
Jeffries says his wife, Joni, backed him up on the decision and encouraged him to apply. She knew from past experience that the job could be demanding, but she thought he would do well in the role.
The couple have two teenage sons.
Jeffries’ official first day of work was Tuesday.
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