There’s a new police chief in Winston-Salem.

On Monday, city staff announced that they had chosen Assistant Chief William Penn, Jr. to lead the Winston-Salem Police Department.

Penn began his law enforcement career with the WSPD in 1997 and came up through the ranks over his 25 years of service, being promoted to corporal in 2005, sergeant in 2009, lieutenant in 2014 and captain in 2017.

A formal swearing in ceremony date will be announced soon.

In the running for the position were two of WSPDs own — Assistant Police Chief Wilson Weaver and Assistant Police Chief Jose Gomez — as well as Police Chief Scott Booth of Danville, Va.

During a public forum held on Jan. 25 where the candidates were asked questions by a community panel, Penn was the clear favorite of the crowd. 

Penn and other speak during a community forum for the selection of police chief in Jan. 25 (photo by Gale Melcher)

While stating that he agrees with community policing, Penn also said that he’s ready to take it to the next level, a statement that was well-received by attendees.

“I’m talking about directing our community policing towards education, towards jobs, towards pulling our folks up,” he said. “We’ve got people in pain, we’ve got people hurting. And I need to work with you all. The police department can play a support role in bringing our folks up.”

In conclusion, Penn said, “I know all of you care about it, and I do too,” a statement that was met with thorough applause from the audience. 

In an email to TCB, Penn said that he is an active member of the community.

“I am service-oriented, and I believe in truly knowing the community that I serve,” Penn said.

Besides working in every district in the city as a police officer, Penn said that his involvement in the community has included his roles as Assistant Scoutmaster and Vice-Chairman of the Habitat for Humanity Board.

As a native of Winston-Salem’s east side, Penn remained in the city for his education, attending Carver High School and Winston-Salem University.

Penn told TCB that he always envisioned being in a leadership position in the WSPD, and that his professional experience, education, and community relationships have prepared him for the role of chief.

“Compassion, dignity, and respect. That’s the foundation of what your interaction will be with the Winston-Salem police department,” he said during the forum. “Whether it’s homelessness, whether it’s mental illness, whether it’s ‘my cat’s in a tree.’”.

As Penn takes on the mantle of chief, he has vowed to lead the city and the department through a challenging period marked by violence. In reference to Tyre Nichols’ murder this month by Memphis police officers, Penn said, “Although I’m honored and excited about the opportunity to lead this department, the gravity of this position is not lost on me.” Penn said that he wants to assure the community that the actions depicted in the video of Nichols’ murder “do not represent the Winston-Salem Police Department” or their values.

“The violence in our community must stop and we must all work together to provide healthy alternatives to violence to resolve conflict,” he said.

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