Det. Evelyn Hobson signs off for the last time in her career outside Riverhead Police headquarters June 25, 2021. Photo: Peter Blasl

The first African American woman to serve as a police officer in the Riverhead Police Department retired Friday after 28 years of service.

Fellow officers bid farewell to Det. Evelyn Hobson outside police headquarters with a traditional “walkout ceremony,” as members of her extended family, friends and other town employees cheered her on.

A U.S. Army veteran, Hobson joined the force in 1993.

When Hobson was promoted to detective in February 2002, she was the first woman and the first African American to attain the rank of detective in the history of the department.

“Though I understood the historical pomp and glory that surrounded me that day,” Hobson said Friday, “I’ve never perceived myself as a history-maker but just a community servant like the rest of my fellow officers — although I do hope I’ve paved the way for women of color to look into becoming a police officer in the Town of Riverhead,” she said.

“It was a beloved icon of this community, the late Dr. Betsy Crump, that paved the way for me and other women of color,” she said. “Her motto was, ‘if you believe, you will achieve,’ and tp her I say thank you
for supporting and believing in me when I was unsure of myself 30-some years ago.”

Before her promotion, Hobson worked as a patrol officer and in the street crime unit. After she was assigned to the Juvenile Aid Bureau, she was instrumental in creating the “Go Girls” program, which aimed to reduce teen pregnancy and keep girls in school. She mentored girls after school, helping with homework and encouraging them to continue their studies.

In heartfelt remarks, Hobson thanked her aunt, Annie Jackson, who was a single-mother of 10 and went back to school to earn her degree later in life. Jackson, now 87, ran the Head Start program in Riverhead for many, many years.

“She was the one that paved the way,” Hobson said, “not just for single mothers, but for all mothers to trust and believe: where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Hobson also recalled Kenyon Tuthill, a Suffolk County Police officer who in May 1986 was shot in the face at point blank range while seated in his patrol car doing paperwork by a man he’d issued tickets to earlier in the day. Tuthill, 39, was critically injured and suffered debilitating injuries, including severe disfigurement.

Hobson told of going with her father to a bookstore in Southold to pick up a study guide book for the police exam. There, she encountered Tuthill, who owned the bookstore, in a wheelchair in a dimly lit area in the back of the store.

Her visit to the shop lasted two hours, with Tuthill sharing his story and the things his tragic experience taught him —all the while holding her hand.

“He shared how he sensed something inside of me and felt that I would be a great asset to the police department, as well as within the community,” Hobson recalled. She was moved and inspired by Tuthill, she said.

Hobson said she asked Tuthill about his feelings for the person who shot him and he answered without hesitation: “Life is too short, so love deeply and forgive quickly. Take the good with the bad, smile when you’re sad. Love what you got. And remember what you once had. People change, things go wrong but realize, no matter what, life goes on.”

Hobson spoke with love and affection about her “guardian angels, the late Carnal and Bertha Hobson, who I know are saying make this short and sweet and you better not cry.”

Hobson said when she was unsure as a girl what path she wanted to take in life, her mother told her, “may the work you’ve done speak for you. As I look over my life, I hope I did my parents proud,” she said.

A mother of two, she recalled the support she got from her extended family as she and her husband Kevin Womack Sr., juggled work schedules while raising young children — a son Kevin Jerome, “aka KJ,” and a daughter Imani.

She thanked her family for “getting out of their warm bed on those cold nights when I had call duty, to come stay with KJ and Imani. Thank you for picking them up or dropping them off … For making sure the iron was unplugged, the oven was off … or checking to make sure everything was okay.”

She thanked her husband, “who stood by my side through this entire journey,” and spoke with pride and love of her children. She shared words of advice she’d given her daughter: “Don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits.”

True to her word, Hobson isn’t kicking back and relaxing in this new chapter of her life. She is running for a seat on the town board this year.

“My mission with the Riverhead Police department may be over,” she said Friday. “But my journey here in this town isn’t.”

Correction: This article has been amended to correct a reference to Police Officer Kenyon Tuthill as “the late” Kenyon Tuthill. He is not deceased. RiverheadLOCAL regrets the error.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.