Public input sought on new police chief

Published 10:47 pm Thursday, January 15, 2009

The city of Suffolk is seeking input from its residents on the selection of the next police chief.

Retiring Chief William Freeman, who was in the Suffolk Police Department for 37 years, opened up the office by announcing his retirement effective Jan. 1.

“It’s a methodical process,” City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn said Wednesday.

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The city has hired an Old Dominion University research team to help learn what the community would like to see in its new police chief. The team will hold a series of six focus-group meetings, which will include invited members of the community, from citizen and business representatives to youth, youth advocates, police department personnel and constitutional officers.

Participants in each of those meetings will be asked a series of questions designed to uncover their wishes regarding the next chief.

Those who are not invited to participate in one of the groups will be able to answer similar questions by visiting The survey asks 12 open-ended questions about how citizens view public safety and the police department and seeks input on the qualities needed for the police chief position.

It then asks eight demographic questions about such topics as the survey taker’s gender, zip code, and level of education and income.

After conducting the focus groups and collecting the responses to the online survey, the research team will submit a report to the city manager summarizing the responses. Cuffee-Glenn said she will use the data as a starting point in the search.

“This is the first phase of the process as we look at qualities,” she said.

Cuffee-Glenn would like to hire someone by spring, but she said she will be selective in the process. The position currently is filled by an interim police chief, Thomas Townsend, who is the retired chief of the Hampton Police Department.

The city has placed advertisements in national and international trade magazines and on employment Web sites.

Residents have until Jan. 31 to complete the Web survey.

“This process was designed to aid in finding the best candidate possible to lead Suffolk’s law enforcement team”, Cuffee-Glenn said. “Suffolk has a reputation of having outstanding public safety agencies, and we want to ensure that we have the best possible leader as our Police Chief,” she added.

Following are the 12 open-ended questions asked by the online survey:

What does public safety mean to you?

What are the essential characteristics, skills or qualities the incoming Chief of Police must have in order to do their job effectively?

In what ways could the attributes you mentioned in question 2 keep you motivated as a citizen? In what ways could they strengthen the relationship between the Suffolk Police Department and the community?

What role do you see the police chief playing as it relates to your community?

What does the new chief need to know about your community in order to promote a positive and effective working environment?

How do you envision an ideal partnership between police and citizens? What would the role of each be in this partnership?

What are the Suffolk police doing to enhance public safety?

In what areas/issues would you say the Suffolk Police Department has been most successful?

In what areas/issues do you think the Suffolk Police Department could improve?

How can the Suffolk Police Department strengthen ties between police and local neighborhoods, especially with respect to young people and at-risk youth?

What issues in your community would you like to see the Suffolk Police Department address with the highest priority?

Are there any additional comments, reflections, or thoughts you would like to offer?