‘I feel like we are on the right track’: Roanoke County Police Chief looks at ways to improve Virginia law enforcement

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ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall is working alongside his fellow Virginia law enforcement leaders to find ways to improve policing around the Commonwealth.

Hall is President of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. The association just gave a proposal to Gov. Ralph Northam, which Hall says could make a big difference for law enforcement in the Commonwealth.

According to Hall, “I think being a police officer in any place across the country right now is certainly a difficult time because of the recent protests and unrest, as well as the pandemic we’ve been dealing with.”

Hall has been on force for 34 years, and through those years, he has seen a lot.

“I feel like we are on the right track,” said Hall. “We’re not perfect.”

Hall, along with other members of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, voiced their concerns to Northam last month about defunding police in the Commonwealth. According to Hall, the focus should be on paying police officers more than mandating body cameras.

“Some of the research surrounding body cameras has shown that they really have not much impact — good or bad — on police officers’ behavior,” said Hall. “I’m going to suggest to you that’s because the vast majority of police officers’ behavior before the cameras was absolutely appropriate, so when you put the cameras on, there is no reason for them to change their behavior.”

Hall says members of the community have voiced their support for the police department.

“I’m very grateful that the Board of Supervisors of Roanoke County have all come out publicly in support of what we do and do not support defunding the police,” said Hall.

Furthermore, Hall believes many concerns and issues the community has with policing can be solved by educating officers. In their eight-page proposal to Northam on how to move law enforcement forward, Hall and his fellow members of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police focused on three major areas, including more funding for law enforcement accreditation; improving the de-certification process in order to prevent officers convicted of certain violations from serving in other law enforcement agencies; and offering police more training, particularly when it comes to approaching people suffering from mental illness.

“We felt that these are things that could be done, but it will take some resources,” said Hall. “Many of them are being done in other places, so we know that there’s some success behind them.”

WFXR News also asked Hall about releasing the body camera footage of the officer-involved shooting that led to the death of Kionte Spencer in 2016. However, Hall declined to release the footage or to name the officers involved in the fatal shooting.

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