BOONE — With laughter from sharing funny stories and cheers of “good luck,” Boone Police hosted a goodbye party for Lt. Chris Hatton on Aug. 7 as he had his last day at the department a few days later.
Hatton has accepted a position as chief of police at the Sylva Police Department after serving at Boone Police for eight years. He said as his law enforcement skills evolve and the longer he is in the field, he felt the call to move up in position.
“Leadership is challenging, but it has so many opportunities for gratification,” Hatton said. “When you’re the leader and your team wins, it feels amazing. When your team doesn’t win, you have the opportunity to make changes and you may win next time.”
Hatton graduated from West Caldwell High School in 1994 and from basic law enforcement training from Caldwell Community College in 1997. He served for four and a half years with the Lenoir Police Department starting in 1998 before he was recruited to work for the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office as a narcotics investigator in 2001.
He served with the Caldwell Sheriff’s Office for six years, and then with the Rolesville Police Department from 2007 to 2011. He was later hired at Boone Police in a sergeant’s position to oversee the narcotics division. He now leaves Boone Police as a lieutenant.
Hatton is married to his wife Glennis Hatton, and the couple has two children. Glennis Hatton has served with the Department of Social Services for 13 years, and had previously been a probation officer.
The decision to leave Boone Police doesn’t come without “heartache,” though, he said. He said Boone is a wonderful place, and he’d like to thank those who made him feel welcome and took the time to invest in him during his time in Boone.
“My experiences at the Boone Police Department helped shape who I am,” Hatton said. “I’m thankful for the strong leadership of Chief Dana Crawford and Captain Andy Le Beau. Both of these men have taught me many things. They pushed me daily towards reaching my full potential as a police leader.”
“Leaving this community is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do,” Hatton said. “I have been lucky to have the opportunity to meet and share common bonds with so many of the incredible people in this community.”
Aside from his involvement in law enforcement, Hatton has also been actively involved in community organizations. Five years ago he started to volunteer at the Hunger and Health Coalition by sorting canned foods and eventually starting assisting with organizational leadership work. Through the years he’s volunteered at different events through the HHC, and is now the chairman of the organization’s board.
Elizabeth Young, the executive director of the Hunger and Health Coalition, said it was Hatton’s sincere, genuine, kind and loving nature that made him so special.
“You have this way about you that people trust you and they know how much you care,” Young said to Hatton. “I’m sad to see you go.”
Boone Police Capt. Andy Le Beau said Hatton had played a role in helping the department connect with various groups in the community, including those who are served at the HHC, as well as the local NAACP and Immigrant Justice groups.
“We’re grateful for his hard work and dedication,” Le Beau said. “We wish you the best as you go to Sylva. I know you’ll do a good job for them and elevate their department and performance. Thank you for your friendship and service here.”
Detective Candace Burlingame said Hatton always made her feel at home at the department and that she would also miss him.
“If you can leave a place better than how you found it ... then we’ve achieved in our lives,” Burlingame said. “You lead by example. I definitely say that you have been successful in making your place better than how you found it.”
Hatton said he originally got into the narcotics side of law enforcement after he recognized what damage could be caused to families and communities due to drugs. He said he felt that he should do everything he could to get drugs out of communities.
“In law enforcement we see people in a state that most people don’t see a lot — in crisis,” Hatton said. “It didn’t take me long to realize that drugs were the cause of many or most of those crises.”
It’s at this point that officers deal with people at their most vulnerable state, and can help get them on the right track of life. He said it’s a gratifying feeling knowing that he’s helped turned a person’s life around for the better. For example, he said he’s received Christmas cards from people in prison that he’s arrested.
“There are lots of good times where folks are thanking you for arresting them because that ended up being the thing that caused them to turn their life around,” Hatton said.
A challenge for Hatton going into the chief Sylva chief position will be trying to find a way to give citizens what they deserve with limited resources. He said due to a nationwide shortage of police officers, an officer’s job is now harder with longer hours to keep up with the standards of police service. He challenged the citizens of Boone to get to know the police department and seek out ways to make their service more meaningful.
“Find a way to make the officers, telecommunicators and support staff feel your appreciation,” Hatton said. “Believe me, they deserve all you can do for them.”
As he closes this chapter on his career, Hatton said he won’t forget the dedication that the officers of Boone Police have for their citizens.
“It has been my absolute privilege to serve alongside of the outstanding men and women of the Boone Police Department for the last eight years,” Hatton said. “The town of Boone is very fortunate to have such a noble, caring and highly skilled police department.”