Driven by his love for Suffolk: Meet Interim Chief James “Danny” Buie

Published 7:36 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2023

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The Suffolk Police Department has a new man at the helm. 27-year law enforcement veteran and Suffolk native James “Danny” Buie officially began as interim chief on Oct. 1, a position he feels fortunate to hold.

“I feel very fortunate to be able to lead this department right now,” Buie said. “I’ve been given the opportunity to do this and move forward and not be handcuffed to say, ‘Hey, wait until we have a permanent chief until you can do anything.’ I’ve been given the green light to do what I need to do to move this department forward.”

There is no timeline for the city’s search for a permanent chief. Media and Community Relations Director Jennifer Moore says a timeline has not yet been established, and the city is not looking to rush its decision.

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However, Buie says it is no secret that he is interested in assuming the role of permanent chief once that time comes.

“I’ll hold down this as long as I’m asked to, and one day [when the] opportunity comes to apply for the permanent chief [position], then I will most definitely put my name in there,” he said.

Buie, who held many positions within the department throughout his 27-year career, grew up in the Bennett’s Creek area of Suffolk, graduated as class president from John Yeates High School, and loves the city and its small-town feel.

“I don’t just like Suffolk; I love Suffolk,” Buie said. “What I’ve always liked about Suffolk is that we still speak to each other. We don’t just pass each other on the street and not say anything to each other, not make eye contact. We still talk to each other. We’re becoming a little larger city, but we still have that small-town mentality, and that’s what I like about Suffolk.”

Fresh out of high school, Buie worked at the shipyards operating heavy machinery, and when he was laid off, he went to work selling insurance, but that was not working for him. He decided he needed a career. That career was law enforcement.

Buie has been grateful for the life law enforcement has afforded him and wants SPD to be viewed not as a job but as a career.

“In the police department, our goal is to get people to buy into careers, not to have a job,” Buie said. “I’m not offering jobs, I’m offering careers, and that’s what we want. Policing has fed my family for 27 years. It has provided a roof, shelter, vehicles, and everything we need. Policing here in the City of Suffolk is a career. It’s a good career if you give it a chance.”

Buie says the department is currently down 58 positions, with 38 being police officers, with some in training that will lessen that number once they are actively working the streets.

Although his time as interim is in its infancy, Buie says the transition has been smooth, and his leadership has been well received. Buie speaks highly of his command staff, and even though he makes the final decisions, he wants everyone to work together to help make the best decisions for the department.

” The transition has been good because I have a lot of really good people that work with me,” Buie said. “I don’t ever want the decisions just to be for me and because ‘I say so. I want it to be a well-thought-out decision; the best way to do that is to consult your command staff.

Having come up through the ranks of law enforcement in Suffolk, Buie wants his officers to know he has not forgotten what it’s like to be where they are.

“I come from where they’re at,” Buie said. “I know, and I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be a patrolman when you’re not able to make it to your daughter’s birthday party or you’re not able to go to the Christmas party. So, I understand where they come from and somewhat how they feel.”

Evidence of the sacrifices he had to make, he says for the first seven years of his son’s life, Buie was a single father.

While policing and the rise in crime have come under intense national media scrutiny. Buie wants the public to know he intends to hold his department accountable for their actions, but also to look at Suffolk Police Department and not compare or paint the department with the same brush as other cities across the country. 

“I can’t worry about nationally,” he said. “I worry about what goes on here in our city. There has been an uptick [in crime], and for me, I come from the neighborhood enforcement team. I come from the Special Investigations Unit, where I know that crime fighting needs to be proactive. We need to get back to being proactive.”

Buie also said that with the crew shortage, all administrative staff, including himself, will work four hours a month on the street.

“With us, we’re down on crew,” he said. “We pushed all of our administrative staff, including me, to work four hours every month on the street. That gives us 80 hours more of coverage from just administrative staff. We’re going to get out there and start answering calls for service. We’re going to start backing up the officers and start picking up things that will free them up to do more proactive police work.”

When Buie is not actively working, you can find him exercising, hunting, or entertaining his six-year-old grandson.

“I like to go hunting. That’s my therapy,” Buie said. “I love spending time with my grandson. That’s my hobby. He’s my buddy. He’s what keeps me young.”