Roanoke City leaders respond to assessment on police department’s public safety operations

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) – Roanoke City Council is sharing its thoughts on the police department assessment on public safety operations. A report from an outside organization, Center for Public Safety Management, LLC, gave the Roanoke Police Department 145 recommendations in September.

Mayor Sherman Lea told WDBJ7 the assessment revealed there is work to be done at the police department, but he is optimistic about moving forward under Chief Scott Booth’s leadership.

”I can understand the morale issue and there’s been some incidents over there in terms of the personnel that have frustrated a lot of people,” Mayor Lea said. “I think there’s nothing that cannot be overcome with time.”

Since the report came out in September, City Council is reporting the Roanoke Police Department (RPD) has already made some changes.

“I think with acting Chief Stokes, I think there’s been some changes, he’s taken on some issues there and lot of it deals with with personnel,” Mayor Lea said. “I think they are on the right track to do that.”

The assessment on the Roanoke Police Department revealed trust issues and disagreement among RPD leadership. Mayor Lea explained staffing morale added to the frustration, but he sees the issue improving.

”I think we’re heading in the right direction by being engaged with the community and dealing with some of the strong difficult personnel issues that we’ve had in the police department,” Mayor Lea said.

RPD’s assessment happened in April. After Chief Scott Booth was sworn in Tuesday, he stated the assessment will be helpful moving the department forward from the existing disagreement.

“I don’t say that’s an easy fix,” Chief Booth said. “But I can connect with officers and I read that study, and I see what officers are looking for in the Roanoke Police Department is a chief that’s going to connect with them, that’s going to listen to them.”

Roanoke City Council member Stephanie Moon Reynolds explained she hopes the assessment leads to more police patrolling and cooperation in the community.

“Community safety is the key, the people need to feel safe,” Moon Reynolds said. “If they know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, without hesitation, that there are patrols going on in the community, they will feel safer.”

With the assessment recommendations and a new police chief, city council is prepared to put more resources into community safety.

“I think given time, you’ll see a change in the city,” Mayor Lea said. “That’s what we’re gonna be doing at council, supporting him and giving him the tools that he needs to make people feel comfortable in this community.”

City council emphasized to WDBJ7 that many of Roanoke’s solutions involve community engagement, which Chief Booth has stated is a priority for him coming into the department.

WDBJ has previously broken down the RPD assessment and revealed what those specific recommendations are. That coverage can be found here.