Shock, sorrow and condolences poured out on social media and in conversations Wednesday night and Thursday from people who had known and loved Rolesville Police Chief Bobby Langston as well as those who merely understood the deep loss to Rolesville and Wendell, his family and his friends. People posted that they were praying for the family and his fellow officers, that Langston will be missed, that they remembered him as a child growing up, and how his kindnesses will never be forgotten.
The question on everyone’s mind – Why? – may never be answered, but Langston’s influence and impact on two local communities was profound and will last long after the dedicated lawman and community member’s March 29, 2017, death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Kind, gentle, respected, involved
In these times when law enforcement is under scrutiny, Langston stood apart. A kind and respected man who was known as a gentleman with a winning smile and one who loved his current Rolesville and native Wendell communities, he worked diligently to make the Rolesville Police Department and the community it served the best they could be together. But that was nothing new to Langston.
Wendell Mayor Ginna Gray had known Langston since she moved to the town 25 years ago, and she considered him one of her closest friends, a friend who had encouraged her to run for town councilwoman and later for mayor.
“It’s a sad time for Rolesville and Wendell,” Gray said. “I don’t think it’s my imagination, but I’m out and about in the community, of course, and it’s definitely a sad, somber time here. You can feel it.”
Langston’s boundless ability to be a positive role model was evidenced in his life as a citizen and as a public servant. Gray explained he had been president of the Wendell Elementary and Middle Schools’ PTAs when his children were young; coached baseball and softball for the Wendell Parks & Recreation Department; and taught Sunday school at Hephzibah Baptist Church.
“Bobby was the kind of person who always wanted to do something to help his community,” Gray said. “He was the kind of person that if you needed something, he was the one that you called. In addition to that, he was a loving son, a loving husband and father, and he was a friend to anyone and everyone, and he will truly be missed.”
It was no different when the Langstons moved to Rolesville. He loved to volunteer his time, whether it was to help hand out awards at the annual Rolesville Rural Fire Department Banquet or supporting community causes. In March 2016 and again only two weeks ago, on March 22, Langston, along with RPD Administrative Support Specialist Christina Rocha, volunteered to deliver meals to the elderly and disabled in support of Meals on Wheels of Wake County’s March for Meals drive.
Focused on police-community involvement and safety
Gray emphasized that Langston’s presence on the Wendell force contributed to the success of Camp Choices, described on the town’s website as a “free camp provided by Wendell Police Department and a grant from the NC ABC Board for 1 week for kids age 9-12”. Langston instituted its counterpart program in Rolesville, the popular Camp C.A.R.E.
Under Langston’s leadership, the Rolesville Police Department grew and instituted a number of other successful community-oriented policing programs to help ensure his officers were more accessible and visible to the citizens of the town. Coffee with a Cop and Chat with the Chief are but two recurring events that have gained popularity and have begun to build meaningful community partnerships. Camp C.A.R.E. now has waiting lists of kids wanting to participate.
“Since Bobby became Chief, he helped keep the Police Department in tune with the community’s needs. I feel more people know the officers by names now than ever before,” said Rolesville Town Manager Bryan Hicks “Citizens know our officers are there to help no matter what. That wasn’t the case under different departmental administration 5 years ago. This progress was done by Bobby’s leadership and focus. We were blessed to have him as Chief and as a friend.”
Rolesville Mayor Frank Eagles, speaking by phone, said the weight of the town’s loss was clear. He, too, stressed that successes between the department and the community were credited to Langston’s positive drive and involvement.
“Chief Langston was good people and will be greatly missed,” Eagles said. “He contributed so much with the town’s growth and to the citizens. He fostered good community policing and positive community involvement.”
In a September 2016 interview with the Rolesville Buzz, Langston illustrated his dual role as law enforcement and citizen by saying, “Any resident’s concern is my concern. I live in this community and am raising children here as well. Our residents are part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
In the same interview, his assuredness in the Rolesville Police Department shined brightly. “I’d put our department up against any other department with a population our size,” Langston said. “I am very proud of the men and women that serve our community and create a safe town for citizens to live, work and play.”
Langston’s embrace of Rolesville and its police department and his drive to keep the town safe were evident in whatever he did and whenever he engaged in conversation, even when faced with the January 3 Rolesville High School incident between a school resource officer and a student that became a viral video and thrust Rolesville into the national spotlight.
In June 2015, Langston shared his and the department’s belief: “If you can make the difference in one person’s life, then you are successful in this job.”
To the people around him, Langston was absolutely a success.
— Jeanne E. Fredriksen • email@example.com • April 2017