Police Captain McNeill retires after 35 years of service
By Abbigail Overfelt
Three and a half decades and four chancellors ago, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke hired a young officer by the name of Larry D. McNeill.
Bright-eyed and enthusiastic about the role he would have in serving his community, McNeill had no idea just how far his career would take him.
Looking back on his career, McNeill said that although he didn’t always know he wanted to work for law enforcement, he always knew that he was called to make a difference.
After 35 years as a member of the UNCP police, McNeill admitted that it would be hard to leave UNCP.
“I’ve had a lot of joys on this campus as a police officer…the best memory I have is interacting with the students,” he said.
McNeill began working in law enforcement in the city of Pembroke and then moved to work on campus when UNCP was still Pembroke State University.
“I started working here when there were no more than 10 buildings on campus,” he said. “Just look at it now.”
UNCP is “one of the most diverse campuses in the UNC system,” McNeill said. He is amazed at how well all the different personalities work together and said the police have a hand in keeping the peace by making sure to treat everyone equally.
McNeill said that he is grateful to the university administration for helping the police department make UNCP “one of safest campuses in the UNC system.”
“Finding ways to keep students safe as possible has always been one of the university’s main objectives,” he said.
McNeill said that the level of accessibility has been the biggest security change on campus.
“Back in 1973, we had a lot of outsiders on campus, and it was hard to control,” he said.
Back then, the university police officers also pulled the night shift alone.
“I went through dangerous times out here by myself,” he said and wondered how he made it.
“What really helped this police department in the later years was the equipment, especially cameras,” McNeill said.
He said the events at Virginia Tech “really opened up people’s eyes,” and that now security changes will be made every year to continually keep the campus safer.
McNeill hopes to leave a legacy that will challenge the officers to always be hard workers.
“Law enforcement is exciting, and it’s also dangerous,” he said. “If you have the desire to help people, you love it. When you fail and you can’t deliver and can’t help people or solve someone’s problem or complaint…not being able to help someone all the time is the downside of law enforcemen”t.
“If you’re gonna be a police officer, you’re not gonna win a popularity contest. That is not your purpose… always do the job to the best of your ability,” he added.
McNeill credits much of his success to the love and support of his wife, Glenda. Together they have four children. Matthew, Nicole and Fallon have all either completed or are in the process of obtaining a degree from UNCP, and his son Julian will soon complete barber school.
In addition to serving UNCP, McNeill was recently elected to his fifth term as a Pembroke town councilman. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Lumber River Council of Governments and U.S. Congressman Mike McIntyre’s Law Enforcement Advisory Committee.
In December, McNeill was elected President of the Robeson County Executive Law Enforcement Association for the second time. He also serves as a rotating deacon and Sunday-school teacher of the Berea Baptist Church in Pembroke.
McNeill offers words of advice to students.
“Don’t judge other people or law enforcement too quickly,” he said. “You may hear something bad about one or two, but 95 to 98 percent of officers are good people.”
Staff writer Brittany Willis also contributed to this story.