Much has been accomplished in the short time since Gregory Brown took the helm of the Leesburg Police Department in October, but many important priorities remain.
That was a key takeaway during the police chief’s presentation to the Town Council Monday night, when he gave his 100-day report.
The presentation actually took place on his 113th day of service to the town, and provided a glimpse into the new path the chief has forged for his department.
Brown heaped praise on Deputy Chief Vanessa Grigsby, who he said helped to make his transition to his new role “seamless.” One of Brown’s initial priorities when joining the department from the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office was to take the time to meet with each of its employees for at least a 15- to 20-minute chat. What has happened, though, is those sit-down meetings have sometimes lasted upwards of an hour, so Brown has had to take a hiatus from those for the moment. However, he said he has learned a lot during those talks and thinks it important to give each employee as much time he or she needs to speak, so he looks forward to restarting those in the near future.
Brown reported some initial changes to the department’s organizational structure, with the creation of a police planner position that focuses on things such as emergency preparedness and strategic planning, as well as a public affairs specialist position that will better take into account some of the roles performed by longtime Lt. Jeff Dubé, who retired at the beginning of the month. Lt. Wesley Thompson was recently promoted to a captain’s position, and Brown said he hopes to have another captain installed by the end of February.
Brown also gave credit to Grigsby for helping to “stem the flow” of employee turnover the department had experienced previously. From June 2015 to September 2016, the department had 25 separations. Since September, that number has dropped to two, with one being Dubé’s retirement.
“We’re working on making sure we keep our thumb on the pulse of police officers, making sure they know we have their back and making sure we support them. The feedback we’ve received so far has been very positive,” Brown said.
Noting wisdom imparted to him by his own mentors—“individuals don’t leave organizations, they leave leaders,”—Brown said he has instituted mandatory leadership training for all supervisory staff. Down the road, he is also looking at following the lead of departments in Alexandria and Arlington County in creating a succession plan to identify future leaders in the department.
The chief said he is hoping to “significantly reduce” the department’s vacancies—now at 17—by the fall. Five hires are headed to the police academy next week, and Brown said he hopes to have another six to eight recruits ready for the academy session in July. To help with the recruitment process, Brown has created a Supplemental Recruiting Team, akin to the one run by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, to allow current employees to help with recruiting on a volunteer basis. He has also created some advisory committees within the department to increase “the sense of inclusion” as well as boost morale among department members, and is looking at how to provide additional training opportunities for his officers.
Two areas he identified as future priorities will be the eventual expansion of his department’s headquarters on Plaza Street, a space they simply have “outgrown.” When the building open in 1997, it is believed that the department had around 45 staff members. That number now hovers around 103 and spaces that are designated for operational use are having to be used as storage, he said. Another budget item—the purchase of body-worn and dash cameras for officers—is on hold pending more research, to ensure that whatever products are bought mesh with the current technology in place at the department.