About 20 people, most of them Leesburg business owners, turned out to a public input session at noon today as the Town of Leesburg tries to find out what kind of person to look for in its next chief of police.
Police Chief Joseph Price retires March 1 after 16 years in the post.
Business owners brought up a diversity of issues and viewpoints. Drug abuse, the youth population, a growing nightlife, immigration, the Silver Line, and even gang violence came up.
“It would be nice to have someone who is involved in moving towards situations with more cooperation,” said Neil Steinberg, owner-operator at Photoworks. “It shouldn’t be an us-against-them kind of thing … so that everyone feels like the police force is a member of the community, with the same interests as other members of the community.”
Others said the next chief of police should educate Leesburg police officers on recognizing and interacting with people with mental illnesses or disabilities in crisis situations, especially distinguishing that behavior from erratic or drug-influenced behavior.
“There’s nothing more tragic than when someone with a mental illness is killed by a police officer,” said one attendee.
The discussion was moderated by Dr. Jessie Lee Jr., president and CEO of Leedone Associates, LLC, which specializes in law enforcement. Lee asked those gathered in the crowd what they would like to see in a police chief, what they’d like to see the next chief get done, and what why a candidate might or might not want to move to the area.
On the one hand, opined one person, “houses are obscenely expensive,” but on the other hand, “it’s a real interesting town. You get all the benefits of living in that national capital region, and you’re 15 miles from the beltway.”
“You need to look for someone who has large-scale experience and is willing to come to a town to do it,” summarized another.
Another discussion—designed to focus on residents’ concerns more than those of businesses—will be held this evening at 7 p.m. in the Ida Lee Park Recreation Center’s lower meeting room. The meeting is open to the public.