As a young girl, Cindy Monday dreamed of suiting up in a uniform representing one of the most difficult public servant positions — that of a law enforcement officer.
After a more than 30-year career, the Lincolnton Police Department captain and first African-American to be hired by the city agency is ready to say goodbye to the career field the end of this month.
Ready for a change, Monday is confident it’s time for her to leave the job and transition to fill a different public servant role, working with patients at Carolinas Medical Center-Lincoln.
The medical facility hired her in February as a service representative for the Emergency Department, greeting all individuals who enter the area, placing patients in rooms and caring for them as needed, she said.
While no specific event triggered her decision to retire from law enforcement, Monday noted how a murder last month in Lincolnton functioned as the impetus to validate her career exit.
The incident proved rare and alarming for the tiny Southern town and was an event Monday considered the most dramatic one in her policing profession.
She shook her head at the thought of how such an unprecedented episode occurred only a month before her retirement.
“After 30 years, and it comes down to the last few days,” she said, shaking her head. “It’s a good indication that it’s time to go.”
The incident involved a man killing his estranged wife then hiding from law enforcement inside his Lincolnton apartment, prompting a four-hour standoff with city and county officers.
SWAT officers eventually ended the man’s life after he opened fire on them.
While Monday said she wasn’t on scene during the perilous event, she maintained constant communication with fellow officers throughout the situation, keeping close to her radio and praying for the safety of everyone involved.
Once she heard the radio go silent following an extended period of gunfire, her stomach dropped and she feared the worst.
When she learned no officers had been injured during the incident, Monday said she was “speechless.”
“I couldn’t find words for that — knowing that all your officers are going home to their families,” she said.
One of her more positive career memories involved locating an elderly woman who had been missing for nearly a day.
She and fellow officers located the woman dehydrated but alive on South Aspen Street.
“Stuff like that is always rewarding,” Monday said.
Not only has she made history during her three decades in law enforcement but also battled racial prejudice and even sexual harassment in her early years, she said.
After starting as a patrol officer with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office in 1984 at age 21, she resigned after a supervisor at the time made a sexual advancement toward her followed by false accusations about her work as an officer, she explained in a speech she wrote for a speaking engagement earlier this year for the Lincolnton Business & Professional Women’s Organization.
“I walked out of the south side of the courthouse,” she said, “and across the street to the Lincolnton Police Department and was hired.”
However, work challenges and racial discrimination continued to follow her, and she eventually submitted a letter of resignation to the city department in 1987.
From February 1990 to July 1990, she worked as an undercover drug officer for Concord Police Department, and a year later, assisted the Mecklenburg County Drug Task Force with an undercover operation that resulted in 40 arrests, she said.
She returned to the Lincolnton Police Department soon after, and celebrated two successes in 1993 including promotion to the rank of sergeant and the honor of “Officer of the Year” for the City of Lincolnton from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1706.
Following her first law enforcement career award, the accolades only continued for her excellence and dedication to the job.
In 2002, Monday city officials again recognized her with a “Supervisory Leadership Development,” and five years later, she completed her Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate, the highest achievement for a cop, she said.
Each award plaque hangs on the wall of the office she moved into in January 2008 after receiving the agency’s coveted “captain” title.
The promotion was evidence of her courage and willingness to persist in a white, male-dominated career field after much discouragement and intolerance from those around her.
Perhaps her most memorable moment on the job was meeting her husband Kevin Monday, a current Sheriff’s Office patrol officer and former North Carolina Correctional Officer for the Lincoln Correctional Center on Roper Drive.
The pair met while both responding to an incident on Mauney Drive two decades ago, she said.
While simultaneously searching for a suspect hiding inside a residence, the two officers sparked a friendship that eventually led to marriage.
In order to keep their jobs from overpowering their everyday conversations, Monday said over the years they haven’t refrained from talking about their work but have insisted on not revisiting certain topics after ending a discussion.
“We talk about the good, and we talk about the bad,” she said, “but once the conversation’s over, it’s over.”
The Lincolnton native and Lincolnton High School alumni has been a positive female role model for her family, motivating both her niece Devonda Friday to enter law enforcement as the Lincolnton Police Department’s second African-American officer in agency history and her own daughter, Kaylin, a senior at Lincoln Charter School, to work toward becoming a federal agent following graduation.
Monday has kept her sanity intact across a long, trying career by maintaining a strong Christian faith, she said, and staying true to well-known author Maya Angelou’s famous advice to leave a legacy of impacting others rather than pursuing personal praise.
“She said, ‘It doesn’t matter who you are or what your title is,’” Monday said. “‘They’re going to remember you by how you made them feel.’ That’s a motto I always try to live by.”
Before ending her interview with the Times-News earlier this month, she placed herself back into the shoes of a young amateur student in police academy, when she asked then-sheriff, Harven A. Crouse — for whom the county detention center is named — to sponsor her during Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) at Western Piedmont Community College.
While the chapter of her policing career is reaching its final page, she knows others will continue to carry the torch of justice and service.
Not only did she remind new officers to keep a strong stomach and remember the work is for the community not money but she also urged them to keep their emotions in check and leave the burdens of the job at the office, not bring them home.
Monday has achieved a number of extraordinary feats over the years from overcoming the challenges of racial prejudice against African-Americans during segregation in the 1960s, and again during her first years in the career field, to rising above community chatter to become an historic part of the Lincolnton Police Department.
She said she broke barriers for her race and gender and proved giving up and giving in were never options.
“I believe in every season of life there will be struggles,” she wrote in her speech. “How we handle those situations is our decision; how you survive or overcome the situations, I believe is in God’s hands.”
Monday’s last official day with the department is April 30.