ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — Roanoke County’s new Police Chief is officially on the job. Michael Poindexter is a native of the Roanoke Valley. He told WFXR News that his interest in public safety began when he was young.

“I had relatives that were in public safety and also my parents worked in the community. My father was an elementary school principal. My mother also was a journalist. So, I always felt the need to be a part of the community,” said Chief Poindexter.

Poindexter started at the department 28 and a half years ago. Starting in April of 2022 he served as Assistant Chief of Police and supervised the professional standards unit, the Roanoke County Criminal Justice Academy, Services Division, and Crime Prevention. Before that, he worked as Police Commander, Police Sergeant, and Police Officer.

He notes how policing has changed throughout his years of service.

“I think it has evolved and it will continue to evolve. The important thing for our department is that we recognize the evolutions and we continue to evolve with the community,” said Poindexter.

When asked how the Roanoke County Police Department needs to evolve and what needs to change he pointed to the department’s work in the community.

“Our department has done a great deal of work in the community and I would like to continue to enhance that work. We have neighborhood watch groups. We also have community activities that we take place in and that gives us an opportunity to show the public that we’re human beings as well. So, if we can interact with the public on a daily basis as opposed to when they’re having a bad moment or a critical incident it gives them an opportunity to see that we are there to help them,” said Poindexter.

Chief Poindexter is the fourth person to lead the department since it was formed in 1990. He’s also the first African American to serve in the role. WFXR News asked if he felt pressure in setting the milestone.

“I think there is pressure, but in today’s times every police chief faces some form of pressure, and right now I’m hoping to lead our department to continue to improve. We’re at a time that we’re having a problem recruiting officers and retaining officers. So, the pressure I feel is slightly less than the pressure that the officers feel every day. We have a hard job to do and I greatly appreciate the effort our officers put forth every day,” said Poindexter.

According to Chief Poindexter, he heads a staff of 140 and is looking to fill eight vacancies. A full-time recruiting officer has since been hired. The department has also established a public safety pay plan that he hopes will entice qualified candidates to apply.

“It is an honor for me to serve as the police chief of this police department. We have a lot of talented men and women that work here on the road and investigate crimes as well as our civilians that I appreciate the work they do,” said Poindexter.

Poindexter took over the position after Chief Howard Hall retired at the end of 2022.