Captain Adrian Burks, a longtime fixture in the Mooresville Police Department, has retired after almost 30 years on the force. He recently took a look back with the Tribune, examining the highs and lows of his lengthy law enforcement career.
Burks grew up in a neighborhood flush with law enforcement officers, who he said he “looked up to” and who eventually inspired him to pursue a career.
“Once I got out of the Marine Corps in 1989, I got in touch with the (Iredell County) sheriff, and I knew a lot of the department from going to school and growing up with them,” he said. “I spent five years at the sheriff’s department, and working in the jail, I met a lot of the Mooresville officers as well.”
He said that he felt like he would be “a good fit” for Mooresville, and that he “liked the way they conducted themselves and how they conducted business with the community.”
“I got in touch with Chief (Joe) Puett, who hired me in 1996, and at the time, the MPD had 25 officers, serving a population of less than 10,000 people,” Burks said.
He reflected on how different the department and their equipment was then, saying they had pepper foggers and PR-24 batons that they had to be certified to use.
“There weren’t any computers in our cars, and we didn’t have the NCAware system that lets us have access to outstanding warrants from different counties,” Burks explained. “We’ve really come a long way.”
Working with kids
As for some of the highlights during his 27-year career in law enforcement, Burks immediately said he loved working with small children throughout the community.
“They love you and look up to you for just being who you are, a police officer,” he said. “When they see you in a public place, they immediately want to hug you and see your car and equipment.”
He also mentioned the Mooresville Police Department’s Citizens Academy, a ten-week program that gives residents a glimpse at the operations of the MPD, as well as Badges for Baseball, a Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and U.S. Department of Justice program, which pairs up officers and children to play the sport and “enhance the relationship between law enforcement and kids in underserved communities across the country using baseball.”
“I’ve also led the Battle of the Badges for the past three years (a charity softball tournament that benefits My Sister’s House, the battered women’s shelter in Iredell County), and assisted with National Night Out (a community crime and drug prevent event),” Burks said.
Burks said he would “definitely miss all the men and women that work here in the department, and having that purpose in life where I get up and come to work each day to serve the community.”
“I don’t live in Mooresville, but when I go out of town, I tell people that’s where I’m from, because I love this community so much,” he said. “It’s my adopted hometown, and I’m proud of it and everything I’ve done here.”
His only regret is that the most prominent unsolved crime in Mooresville, the 2009 murder of 31-year-old Matthew Stewart, has remained open. Stewart, a registered nurse at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center, was fatally shot by an intruder in the bedroom of his Gabriel Estates home. His wife, Angela, was wounded in the June 9, 2009 incident, which has been categorized as a home invasion.
“I was one of the first officers on the scene, and I would really like to see it solved,” he said. “If anyone has any information about that case, I really urge them to call the department, because it’s still an active case.”
Burks’ last day was Sept. 30, and he said he plans to “take some time off and enjoy my family.”
“I’m going to do some hunting, fishing and camping, but I’ll be back – this won’t be the last you see of me,” he said. “I told the Chief (Damon Williams) that he can call me any time, and all of the officers that I served with have my number if they ever need advice.”
Williams wished Burks well, saying he had “a long, successful career in law enforcement.”
“I think, as officers, we all look forward to the day where we can look back at our career, know we did a good job, and then just fade off into the sunset and relax,” he said. “I’m excited for him and this new chapter.”
For new law enforcement officers, Burks advised them to “treat everyone as you would want to be treated, and like you would treat your own mother.”
“Often, when you’re out there working with someone on an incident, it’s the first time they’ve had to deal with law enforcement, so be respectful and kind,” he said. “If you do that, and you’re a part of the community you serve, you can go home at the end of your shift and feel proud of your accomplishments for the day.”