Twine stands the test of time

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 15, 2006

AHOSKIE – In 1966 the civil rights movement was reaching its apex and there were no black police officers in this region.

The following year, Joseph Twine broke the color barrier, becoming the first black law enforcement officer in the town of Murfreesboro.

Twine, currently a Special Deputy in charge of security at Roanoke Chowan Community College, said that when he first came aboard as a member of the Murfreesboro P.D. he had to stay hidden for nearly a year.

&uot;I had to be undercover for a while,&uot; Twine said. &uot;I wasn’t accepted by whites or blacks.&uot;

Twine said when he first entered his profession, white citizens weren’t ready to accept a black officer arresting them, and for that matter neither were black citizens.

&uot;Blacks did not accept me as part of the community,&uot; Twine recalled. &uot;They looked at me as a stool pigeon.&uot;

Twine remembers having to fight with citizens whenever he would try to arrest anyone in black neighborhoods.

To hear Twine reflect on his 40-plus years in law enforcement is like getting a lesson on the evolution of race relations in the area.

&uot;Even after I had some experience on the force, I didn’t have the same privileges white officers had,&uot; Twine stated. &uot;I didn’t even have a patrol car.&uot;

Twine said the first black person that he remembers seeing in uniform was Edward Sessoms of the Ahoskie Police Department.

&uot;There was actually a black precinct in Ahoskie at that time,&uot; Twine recollects. &uot;There was a round, colored glass building on First and Maple streets.&uot;

Twine was eventually approached by the Hertford County Sheriff’s Department after federal mandates forced law enforcement agencies to field a force more reflective of the communities they served.

Again, Twine still was not afforded the luxury of a patrol car.

&uot;I had a uniform and a gun, but still no car,&uot; Twine said. &uot;I had to ride with other officers.&uot;

Eventually the Sheriff got himself a new car, and with a real deliberate pace, Twine was allowed to use the Sheriff’s old vehicle.

Aside from being a pioneer in the region, Twine by default became an adjunct human resources officer.

&uot;When I was preparing to leave the Murfreesboro P.D. I was asked to find my replacement,&uot; Twine stated. &uot;By that time people had gotten accustomed to the fact that black officers were going to be part of society.&uot;

Twine was also one of the pioneers of the neighborhood crime prevention initiative, partnering with local churches, the fire department and the Town Hall to assist citizens in lowering the crime rates in their communities.

&uot;We use to have monthly meetings with the residents of various neighborhoods to help them understand the principles behind fighting crime at home,&uot; Twine added. &uot;We would instruct them on strategic ways to plants bushes and trees and stage the lighting around their homes.&uot;

Twine also started a Hertford County holiday Toy Drive, a program that he still works with today.

&uot;I remember investigating two black boys that had stolen bicycles from the old Roses store,&uot; Twine recalled. &uot;The boys were staying with their grandmother and their parents were in New York. The grandmother just couldn’t afford to buy them toys for Christmas.&uot;

Twine began partnering up with other concerned citizens and businesses fixing up used toys to give to underprivileged children.

Last year, Twine and his cohorts donated toys to over 140 children in the area.

Twine also remembers vividly the first experience that he had with one of the biggest problems affecting black communities today.

&uot;When I first started as a police officer, the only drugs you would see was some occasional marijuana and sometimes a few pills,&uot; Twine said. &uot;The first time I saw crack cocaine packaged up, I didn’t realize what I was looking at.&uot;

Twine said he stopped a motorist one day and saw several dozen plastic capsules on the floorboard of the vehicle, but wasn’t aware of what they contained.

A short while later the same motorist was arrested by another department and after an investigation, the motorist was found to be trafficking crack from out of state.

Of all the changes that have negatively affected the community, Twine says it wasn’t the drugs that played the biggest role, but the government’s attempt to stifle traditional parenting methods.

&uot;One of the things I dreaded doing the most was going to the schools as a resource officer and making the announcement that corporal punishment was not going to be allowed in schools anymore,&uot; Twine said. &uot;It was the worst speech I ever had to give.&uot;

Twine believes that school integration was one of the driving forces behind the abolishment of corporal punishment as white parents did not want to fathom the thought of a black teacher disciplining their children.

&uot;After that, kids would tell their teachers and even parents that if they were to paddle them they would call social services,&uot; Twine said. &uot;Today’s children have been given everything they want, they have not learned to respect the value of a hard day’s work and the dollar you earn by doing it.&uot;

Twine is also disappointed in the large number of elderly citizens tasked with trying to raise their grandchildren.

&uot;The social system and court system has created a whole generation of absentee parents that are either in jail or strung out on drugs,&uot; Twine said. &uot;Guardians today fear the wrath of their children instead of the other way around.&uot;

At 67 years young, Twine is the oldest active law enforcement officer in the region.

The father of eight, grandfather of 18 and great grandfather of one says he’s not ready to sit down quite yet.

&uot;Not yet,&uot; Twine says. &uot;Maybe soon, but not yet.&uot;