Jeff McCracken’s retirement as UNC Police chief, which was announced earlier this year, is effective Monday, and the university has named Thomas Younce as his interim replacement.
UNC – Chapel Hill Board of Trustees chair Haywood Cochrane said after a special meeting of the board last Thursday that the national search for a permanent police chief is ongoing.
“We have a number of candidates that we’re quite happy with; we’re narrowing the candidates down,” he said. “It is extremely important to us to get this right.”
Officials have said the university anticipates having a permanent police chief in place before the start of the academic year.
Much of the attention on UNC Police over the last two years has focused on its handling of protests around the Confederate monument on the campus known as Silent Sam, which was toppled last August.
Cochrane said it is important that the police chief is able to handle these events moving forward, regardless of the final plans regarding Silent Sam.
“We happened to have a lighting rod of significant proportions in Silent Sam, but we’ve got other things and, as you know, this campus is not frightened of a protest,” he said. “So, we have to handle it the right way, with sensitivity, but we have to handle it the right way.”
That decision on the future of the Confederate monument will ultimately be decided by the university system’s Board of Governors. After that board rejected an initial plan from the campus last fall to house the monument in a new building on the Chapel Hill campus, five members were appointed to work with the campus to develop a plan for the statue’s future.
Since that vote, the deadline for a new plan to come before the board has been delayed twice and no new deadline has been set. Cochrane said conversations are continuing between the campus and system.
“We’re working closely with them on our creative ideas about the appropriate disposition of Silent Sam, whether on campus or off campus.”
Cochrane said he felt the system committee members were being receptive to the campus concerns.
“We have every reason to believe that we can come up with a solution that will be not only good for the campus but good for all the various stakeholders,” he said.
Those stakeholders, Cochrane said, included the Town of Chapel Hill and the consideration of the economic impact continued protests at the monument have had on the town.
“If you think about the disruption that we’ve had and the economic impact on businesses downtown, when we basically close downtown for a protest, it’s a significant impact on the Town of Chapel Hill,” Cochrane said.
The UNC System Board of Governors appeared to remain divided on the subject at its most recent meeting in May. The board chair Harry Smith said his view had evolved from his original opinion – which he described as “quick and uneducated” – that the monument be replaced where it was toppled to now considering that to be “not the right path.”
Other board members have continued to express a desire the Confederate monument be reestablished on McCorkle Place; one outgoing member of the board wrote an op-ed published in the News & Observer to that effect.
New voices are being added to the discussion at the board level as well as new members are being appointed to the system board by the North Carolina General Assembly.
Interim UNC System President Dr. Bill Roper and Interim UNC – Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz have said they felt the statue should not be returned to the campus.