Many years ago, the Elkin Police Department received a complaint pertaining to three teenagers who allegedly were running amuck-and-drinking in Elkin Park after attending a night of cruising.
Officers responded to the scene surrounding the park; one officer got out of a patrol car and started walking in the direction of the teenagers.
When the teenagers started running, the officer opted to take a short cut to intercept the teenagers. It became a pursuit.
The chase led to a section of the park where the ground sloped downward. The officer recalled tripping, flying head first and being fully airborne, slamming into the ground, rolling continuously with grass and dirt all over her face, and making grunts along the way.
“It was classic,” said Elkin Police Detective Mendy Peles. “I stopped rolling directly in front of the kids, got up, dusted off my shirt and pants and peered into their eyes as if nothing had happened to me.”
Peles said she believes the children must have thought she were a superhero.
“That night officially goes down as my most embarrassing moment, though,” Peles said.
When asked to describe the worst moment she’s ever experienced in law enforcement, Peles said it was an incident between a man and his dog.
“He mistakenly left his dog in the back of a pick up truck. The dog jumped out not realizing the leash was tied to the back of the truck and would strangle it,” said Peles. “That was a very sad moment for me to see.”
According to the 43-year old, Peles has seen a ton and remembers her beginning.
“When I was young, my grandmother, who retired from the advertising department at Southern Bell, advised me to choose a predominately male career, and do my best at it,” disclosed Peles. “When I was 15, I had the opportunity to work for the Jonesville Police Department as an office assistant, through the YVEDDI program.”
According to Peles, she would listen to the stories the officers would tell and become completely enthralled. “When I was 17, I went to work for Yadkin County Sheriff’s Office as a dispatcher. When I graduated from high school, I went to work full-time for the Elkin Police Department. I had the opportunity to become a sworn officer with Elkin, and have remained at Elkin.”
Since then, the career has spanned over 25 years, yielding many accomplishments for Peles. She was recognized as Elkin’s first female patrolman in 1990, received her Advanced Law Enforcement certificate in 2002, attained her Associate’s in 2011, and in 2012 was recognized as Elkin PD’s employee of the year.
Peles was born at the old Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital, now Chatham Woods Apartments. Growing up, she says that her family moved frequently, but they moved back to Jonesville in 1982.
“I was an average student. Not much excitement,” she said. “I did get caught skipping school one time.”
Peles had a taste for girls’ sports, playing softball, basketball and volleyball, but to make ends meet needed to work during high school. She is a Carolina Panthers fan.
When asked if there is a disparity with women serving in law enforcement, Peles shifted the chatter and pointed toward department support instead.
“I had a lot of support and guidance from others around me who showed me how I could make a difference,” she said.
“I would not encourage anyone to choose a career in law enforcement,” revealed Peles. “There are many careers that someone can choose to help people and make a difference. But, if someone really wants to choose a career in law enforcement, prepare yourself. Get a college degree before beginning your career.”
Peles is married to Jim Peles. Their children are Sidney and Luke. They live in Jonesville.
“My family puts up with my career,” said Peles, when asked how one balances being a detective and mother and wife. “You have to walk a fine line with kids nowadays and try not being mom the cop. So you give leverage and are there for support, but sometimes you must be a mom.
“On the other hand, my husband is always there, always understanding,” continued Peles. “When I have to leave in the middle of the night to investigate a crime, he calls to check in on me, just to make sure I’m safe.”
Mother Peles is the first to say that she eats her favorite snack food with her family, even if it’s at midnight: a peanut butter sandwich. Her favorite movie is “Back to the Future.”
Now Peles is looking toward retirement.
“Within five years, I’m outta here,” she says. “I’ll do something else.”
When asked if she would consider a career as a consultant, or anything related to law enforcement, Peles spun her head around.
“No way,” she said. “That’s it. After this, I’m done. I did my part. I’m out.”
No time for departures, though, according to police brass.
“We’ve worked since 1994 together on patrol, SRO, and other activities,” said Detective Lt. Kim Robinson. “We’re like sisters, but we’re not letting her leave us right now.”
“Sgt. Peles is a professional, compassionate officer and a very effective investigator,” said Capt. Chris Leonard. “Her performance is in keeping with the high standards of the Elkin Police Department.”
Peles admits the community is an extension of her family, too, even if it means getting tough on them.
“Believe it or not, many of the people I arrested or have charged with an offense have thanked me. People are people, and people sometimes make bad choices. Whatever someone has done was not directed at me personally. My involvement is to find out the facts and relay that to the court system, if warranted. Most people understand that,” she said.
“At the end of the day, it’s hard for me to teach people on the tremendous work that happens here,” said Peles.
“We all must remember that nobody is calling us to say they’re having a good day,” she said. “So we work very hard to make everyone have a bit of brightness, even if it means that it comes at our expense.”
Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 336-835-1513 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org