Chief Summers retiring

Kernersville Police Chief Tim Summers has announced that he will be retiring from the Kernersville Police Department (KPD) in the very near future. The Town will begin its search for a new police chief, and as soon as that is concluded, Summers will retire. He expects it to be in mid- to late-May or June and stated he would be as involved in the hiring process “as much as the town manager needs me to be.”
Summers will have served in the KPD for over 31 years when he retires. Summers replaced former KPD Chief Scott Cunningham. Cunningham was named KPD chief in June 2008 and served until Jan. 31, 2017. Summers’ first official day as KPD chief was Feb. 1, 2017.
“This is one of the toughest decisions I have had to make as far as a lifestyle decision because I worked for so many good people in the past and I work with so many good people currently,” Summers said. “The unfortunate truth is in the police department you are kind of forced into retirement with the way it works. Once you get to 30 years, you have to start thinking hard about how much longer you are going to stay because the retirement is affected by everything you do. It has been a great job. Every year goes by faster. It has been very rewarding. I did not get here on my own. A lot of people were responsible for getting me in the role as a chief, and I owe it all to them.”
Summers is originally from Kansas City, Missouri. He moved to Kernersville because he had family here and quickly grew to love the town. He has been married for 31 years and has two daughters.
“Obviously, I am biased. Kernersville is the greatest community in North Carolina, but that is not to say we don’t have our issues,” said Summers.
Summers actually started his career in the KPD as a dispatcher.
“There were a lot of people that wanted to join the KPD then. There were only two police department spots open. Those got taken by veteran officers from other police departments, so I took the dispatcher position until something was open,” Summers said.
Summers was a dispatcher for nine months and then was part of the KPD Patrol Division for four years. He joined the KPD Narcotics Division in 1997 and stayed there for six years. In 2003, he became a detective in the Criminal Investigation Division and stayed there for five years. He was promoted to lieutenant of the Narcotics Division in 2008 and was later promoted to captain.
Summers has an associates degree in criminal justice and has received numerous awards and certificates during his time on the force, including his Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate and his Criminal Investigation Certificate. He has also received a Master Certification Service Award and a Tactical Award for his performance on the job. In addition, Summers has received multiple Commendation Awards for Exceptional Meritorious Service.
Summers never expected to be the KPD chief, but he had the support of many in the department and had two excellent role models in former KPD Chief Neal Stockton and Cunningham. Stockton was the KPD chief from 1984 to 2009.
“I was never expecting to be the chief at all. I think I applied for it because of everyone at the KPD that wanted me to be the chief. I would say I was brought up under and hired by Chief Stockton. He promoted me to lieutenant. Cunningham promoted me to captain and assisted me with the chief of police process and really showed me how the administrative side of law enforcement works,” said Summers.
A team-oriented police department has been part of Summers’ and the KPD’s success over the years.
“It is a good department that strives to work with the community and partner with the community. I think that it is a team environment that we have really worked hard to cultivate. As the chief, I know I can make decisions, but it is the team dynamic that I feel works best for the department and the Town where we roundtable a lot of the problems and the solutions. I enjoy being a police officer, but like any other profession you have good and bad,” Summers said. “You are not going to make everybody happy. Most of the time when people are dealing with the police they are not having their best day, but I think that is where we empathize with people and make it work. A lot of it is about solving crimes and preventing crimes, but it is about serving the community just as much.”
Summers also praised the school resource officers’ (SRO) contributions.
“We have an excellent SRO program that provides a service. It is not just being at the schools as officers, but being educators as well,” Summers said.
Summers’ approach to law enforcement is reflected by the advice he gives to new officers.
“I always tell my new hires the community deserves to be treated well and they are the ones that make or break the police department. I tell them to be nice until it is time not to be nice. Everybody accepts the culture of the police department, for example like with stopping cars. No one likes having their car stopped, but I don’t want everybody who gets stopped to get a ticket. I want them to get warnings sometimes, but obviously if someone deserves a ticket, then give them a ticket,” said Summers.
Summers has greatly appreciated the support of the community, Town government and other entities.
“You are always going to have some people that hate the police, but I think 90% of the people in Kernersville support us. I would like to say something about the Board of Aldermen (BOA) and previous BOAs that have been so supportive of the KPD and me. (Town Manager) Curtis Swisher has been one of the greatest bosses I have worked for, but I have been fortunate in my career to work for a lot of good people,” Summers said.
Summers also praised John Owensby, who was the managing editor/publisher of the Kernersville News from 1986 until his death on Nov. 4, 2022, for his support over the years.
“John was on the board to select the police chief. He really supported me as the chief of police and always gave me the opportunity to showcase the department,” said Summers.
Summers has seen much in his years in law enforcement and has faced various challenges as a police officer and as the KPD chief. Some of the changes have been good, and some of them not so much.
“The personnel have changed. You don’t have the career dedication with law enforcement that we once had. Obviously, hiring right now is a challenge trying to stay fully staffed,” said Summers. “Fully staffed, we are at 71 and we have 19 civilian employees. We are about five to seven short right now, which is about 10%. Some of the bigger departments are 20% down. Staffing is an issue for everybody right now. That is an internal working challenge.”
He continued.
“Obviously, staying up-to-date with trends and technology is paramount as well so we don’t fall behind and so our service to the community is what it should be and more. You have to keep up with the crime trends and business and commercial issues, where people are stealing or defrauding businesses, and residential issues where people are targeting communities or families. You have scams targeting individuals. You have drug trends. People are worrying about fentanyl, heroin and overdoses. It is the deadliest trend we are seeing, and with the fentanyl, it is concerning for the safety of the officers as well.”
The COVID-19 pandemic was a very unwelcome challenge for everybody, which included the KPD and other police departments and law enforcement agencies.
“I guess as chief one of the biggest challenges I faced was the pandemic. Trying to work around and with different protocols and ideologies was a challenge in and of itself. We are still dealing with the court issues. They have not caught up yet from the pandemic,” said Summers.
The available technology in law enforcement now is the biggest change, and it has been very helpful.
“The technology is consistently changing. We are on the third generation of body cameras. We have the new Real Time Crime Center and we have a drone program. Sometimes with the new technology we are gaining it can make up for other personnel issues we are facing. It can eliminate the need for additional manpower to do the job. For example, the drones have a license plate reader. On one hand the technology is good, so the town manager and the BOA give us the opportunity to acquire technology that is needed for the job. It can cost more upfront, but it pays for itself.”
The future after retirement for Summers is currently open and undecided.
“I have several opportunities. I have not made my mind up on what I am going to do yet,” Summers said.

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