Virginia Coalition of Police
and Deputy Sheriffs
BY JIM NOLAN
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Jan 25, 2005
New Richmond Police Chief Rodney Moore.
Rest assured, Richmond. He's not on a leave of absence.
Rodney D. Monroe -- the police chief of Macon, Ga., and a former assistant
chief and 22-year veteran of the Washington police force -- yesterday was
named Richmond's new police chief.
"No, he's not on a leave of absence -- he's going," said Macon Mayor Jack
Ellis, who hired Monroe from Washington 3½ years ago to head a force of
about 400 in a town of 100,000.
"The best chief of police in America is coming to your town," Ellis said.
Monroe, 47, beat out 60 candidates for the job vacated by embattled former
Chief Andre Parker, who served for 2½ years before collecting $80,000 in
severance from the city and returning to the Illinois State Police, where
officials said he was simply on a "leave of absence."
"It's been a long road on which I am very pleased to be at the end,"
said Monroe, who had flown into Richmond the night before with his wife,
Marvette, a bank executive.
"I have plans on staying here a good little while."
The Rodney Monroe file
Current job: Chief of police, Macon, Ga. (population 100,000), since
2001. Big-city experience: 22 years, Metropolitan D.C. Police. Rose from
patrol officer to rank of assistant chief, in charge of the Office of Youth
Violence; also coordinated and managed department's handling of the 1995
Million Man March and the 1997 presidential inauguration
Number of homicides in Macon last year: 16
Number of homicides in Richmond last year: 95
Monroe was one of three finalists interviewed for the position and was the
unanimous choice of the interview panel, which included Wachovia Bank CEO
James Cherry, former School Board Chairman Melvin Law and Mayor L. Douglas
A native of Washington with two college-age children and extended family in
the Washington area, Monroe will reportedly make $133,000 a year. He starts
in two to three weeks.
Cherry said the search committee was given no names by Wilder, but was told
only to find candidates with extensive experience in urban policing and
partnering with other government crime-fighting agencies. He would not name the
other candidates interviewed.
"We were interested in only one thing -- the best possible person we could
have for the chief in Richmond," said Wilder, presiding over the
introduction ceremony yesterday morning in a packed conference room at
police headquarters at 200 W. Grace St.
"You've got somebody who knows the whole deal."
During his tenure in Washington, Monroe served as commander in the worst
crime district in the city. Monroe said that later, when he was an assistant
chief running the Office of Youth Violence, police were able to broker a
truce between two rival gangs that investigators believed were responsible
for 21 homicides.
"He's someone who cared about the department and the community he served," said
Officer Kenneth Bryson, a police spokesman speaking on behalf of Washington
Chief Charles Ramsey. "He's a good man, a consummate
professional. Macon's loss is Richmond's gain."
Macon, roughly an hour's drive south from Atlanta, had 16 homicides last
Richmond, twice the size of Macon, had at least 95 homicides last year, the
most of any city in the commonwealth. It was recently named the
ninth-most-dangerous place to live in the United States by the research firm
Morgan Quitno, based in Lawrence, Kan.
In Macon, Monroe is credited with a 5 percent reduction in crime and the
initiation of youth programs and neighborhood outreach organizations.
The changes came despite a Macon City Council that has, in recent years,
denied the police money to buy new cars and uniforms for new recruits. Macon
also has no structured pay scale or promotion system for police, factors
that preceded Monroe's arrival in the job but have nevertheless contributed
to lower morale and a high turnover rate.
The adversity did not stop Monroe from making changes. He disbanded many of the
department's specialized units and redeployed nearly a quarter of
Macon's police ranks back onto the streets, giving the force greater
visibility in the community and ruffling some feathers along the way.
"He reorganized the entire department," Ellis said. "He jettisoned some
people who didn't want to get with his program. They were shown the door,
and some were demoted, but he's not vindictive."
"He's a by-the-book guy when it comes to police officers," Ellis added.
"Everyone has a chance with him."
In Richmond, Monroe inherits a department of roughly 700, including an
understaffed and overworked investigative division. There has been low
morale in the officer ranks and a strained relationship with residents in
some of the city's highest crime areas, fueled, in part, by a series of
During a brief speech yesterday, Monroe said he would re-examine the
operational and structural fitness of the department, including whether it
has the resources to effectively reduce major crime and the homicide rate.
Monroe also hinted at a back-to-basics return to community-based policing.
He suggested more uniformed officers would be assigned to high-crime areas
for longer periods of time and would be given responsibility for what
happens on their beats.
The new chief also said the department will reach out to the neighborhoods
and focus more on "quality-of-life issues" that affect the citizens, rather
than relying on statistics.
"I'm not a bean-counter," Monroe said. "Yes, we pay attention to whether
crime is going up or going down, but . . . we have to pay attention to
citizens' problems as they see them in their community and address the
problems from their perspective."
Monroe's philosophy was welcome news to newly elected 3rd District
Councilman Chris A. Hilbert, who represents some of the city's most
crime-afflicted areas on the North Side.
"The citizens in my district felt like they were being blamed for the crime
in their neighborhoods," Hilbert said.
Parker frequently cited statistics to demonstrate crime was down 10 to
12 percent in most major categories. But he also expressed frustration over
the lack of cooperation from the community in solving crimes, and he was
fond of saying the victims of Richmond's streets died because of their
Yesterday's announcement generated an air of excitement in the city.
"This day is a great day to be alive in the commonwealth of Virginia,"
said Law, the interview panelist.
It also wasn't a bad day to be a police officer.
"I think he's everything Parker wasn't, which is a good thing for us,"
said Lt. Brian Russell, vice president of Richmond's John Marshall Fraternal
Order of Police.
"We're excited about it, and we're ready to roll."