Sparse Attendance at Second Police Chief Input Meeting

It was a significantly smaller crowd that participated in the second of two public input meetings Wednesday in efforts to help Leesburg find a new police chief.

Police Chief Joseph Price will be retiring from the Leesburg Police Department March 1, after 16 years at its helm. The town has contracted with the International Association of Chiefs of Police to assist them in finding Price’s replacement.

Yesterday two public input sessions were moderated by Dr. Jessie Lee Jr., president and CEO of Leedone Associates LLC, which specializes in law enforcement. An afternoon meeting was geared toward members of the business community, while the 7 p.m. session was intended to be for the general public.

Only six people attended the evening meeting, including one county resident who did not participate but said he was interested in the job himself. Those who did participate offered their feedback on a number of questions posed by Lee, including the qualities necessary in Leesburg’s next police chief; short- and long-term goals they would like to see the new chief tackle; and any challenges the next chief may face.

Town resident Frank Holtz, who is vice chairman of the Loudoun County Crime Commission, said Price has done an outstanding job of running the department over the years and taking charge in adverse situations.

“It’s a tough job. I just hope someone picks out the best person for the job and it’s not a political thing but more of it’s the person who has the best qualifications for this position,” he said.

Lee noted that he expects the process of selecting a new police chief to take four to six months from start to finish. He said the applicants will be whittled down based on the needs expressed by those who he and others involved in the search process have spoken with, and ultimately the final few candidates will be vetted directly by town staff.  Under Leesburg’s charter, the town manager hires the police chief with the review and consent of the Town Council.

Lee said he believes there will be nationwide interest in the position.

“There are a lot of great individuals out there but not everyone will be great for here,” he said. “You’re not just picking an individual who has a great résumé but someone who meets the needs of Leesburg.”

Councilman Tom Dunn, who attended the evening session, said he wants the next police chief to not be afraid to tell the council what he or she needs to effectively run the police department.

“Don’t say what you think the council wants to hear,” he said. “I want the police chief to ask me what they need and I decide whether there’s a budget for that. If you don’t ask you’re not going to get it.”

Both Dunn and former Town Council member Kevin Wright, who is running in the mayor’s race in November’s general elections and who also attended the meeting, said they would like to see the new police chief have community policing experience, as well as familiarity with dealing with town/county relationships. Dunn and Wright both said the next chief should be ready and able to enhance collaboration between the town’s police department and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

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