Suffolk’s new police chief shares his vision as he sheds the interim tag

Published 4:55 pm Monday, July 8, 2024

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Serving Suffolk Police Department for 27 years after graduating from Chesapeake Police Academy in 1996, Buie starts his official next chapter of SPD effective Monday, July 8. In a Wednesday, July 3 interview, Buie took time to discuss his goals for SPD, following in the footsteps of his predecessors, as well as a candid perspective on the man behind the badge. Sharing his thoughts on stepping into the role, Buie says it has been “a whirlwind” ever since the start of his service as Interim Chief.

“When it became permanent, I thought maybe I wouldn’t feel any different because we’ve been doing it all along. But I did feel different. It took on a different feeling for me. I believe it was more so to know now I am totally responsible for the men and women of this police department and the communities in the City of Suffolk, and I take that very seriously,” Buie said. “It took that on me to know there’s nobody for me to call, there’s nobody for me to ask, that I need to be the one to make these decisions, to make the decisions that are in the best interest of the people of this police department and the citizens of Suffolk.”

As a young recruit, Buie said he doubted himself quite often, and the thought of one day leading an entire department never crossed his mind. 

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“I would sit in the police academy and every time the director would come in, I would think, ‘Oh Lord, they’re coming for me to tell me that I am not supposed to be here and they made a mistake along the way,” he said. “… It kind of went that way for a little while where I really, I don’t know if it wasn’t that I didn’t [feel] I belonged or deserved it, but I realized after a while that I worked really hard to get through the academy, to get through the hiring process with the Police Department, to get to be a Sergeant, a Lieutenant, a Captain, a Major and now Chief of Police … It took a while for me to convince myself that I deserve it just as much as anybody.”

One of Buie’s goals is to continue the partnership his predecessors established with the community.

“And my job is to keep that partnership and to keep that relationship and, if anything, make it better. Never to make it worse,” Buie said. “We count on our community to do everything that we do. They give us the authority to police and we have to take that very seriously and we have to keep that relationship.”

Like many other police departments nationwide, Suffolk has its fair share of vacancies, and for Buie, one of his highest priorities is filling those vacancies. 

“That’s utmost and foremost is that we get to zero vacancies so we can start filling our detective bureaus, our special investigations, our neighborhood enforcement teams and all of those units, because when they are at full staff and they can get out and do the jobs that they need to do, those are your crime-fighting units. Those are the ones that are going to bring crime down. We’re going to have to grow with the city,” Buie said. 

Early on in his career, former Suffolk Police Chief William Freeman gave Buie some advice that has stuck with him to this day: “I can teach everything that I need to teach you, but I can’t teach you how to care about people.” Buie says this advice influences him to this day in hiring new candidates. 

Looking ahead, Buie says he envisions having a third precinct somewhere in the city. Something he says he wants to get starting working on as quickly as possible.

“In order to do that, 20 years from now and to keep pace to be fully staffed, then we’re going to need to hire 100 new police officers in the next 20 years,” he said. “So that’s my goal – is fully staff the police department and then we can start working on all the other things that we need to do. But a third precinct is something that I believe is needed and is something that I want to start working on as quickly as possible.”

Buie credits his predecessors, his various roles within the Suffolk Police Department, and the education he received to prepare him for the chief’s role.

“Learning from the Chief Bennett’s, the Chief Freeman’s, Chief Chandler’s, learning everybody that was before me. Whether I take the advice or whether I don’t take it, I try to learn something from everybody. And I feel like I am in touch with the citizens of Suffolk, because I lived here my whole life,” he said. “…I think that helps me a great deal in moving forward to where I understand the character and culture of the City of Suffolk.”

The old adage says behind every good man is a good woman; for Buie, that is no different.

“I know that sounds cliche, but I have a wife that pushes me really, really hard to be the best that I can be. I have a grandson that wants me to retire so I can drive him to school every day and pick him up from school everyday. He doesn’t understand the rest of it,” Buie said. “Everybody else, I think was very happy and very supportive of me becoming the permanent Chief, but when I asked him about it, he goes, ‘I don’t want you to be the permanent chief!’ He wanted me to retire and hang out with him more.”

Buie also gave a message to Suffolk residents.

“I want the citizens of Suffolk to know that I am going to keep pushing and this police department is going to keep pushing until we have a crime rate of zero in the City of Suffolk,” he said. “I don’t think any crime is tolerable. We are a nation of laws and we need to live by those laws and the people of Suffolk deserve to have a quality of life and be able to go outside of their homes whenever they want, walk their dogs whenever they want, go take a walk whenever they want. And I can assure them that I am going to give them 110 percent everyday to make sure that Suffolk is the safest city, if not Virginia, in the nation.”