Roanoke City Sheriff Timothy Allen discusses challenges, successes during his time as sheriff

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ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Roanoke City Sheriff Timothy Allen announced his retirement on Tuesday, stating he will not seek re-election and will not complete his term as sheriff. His last day in office will be Jan. 8, 2021.

“The type of leader that I am is really a servant leader, in one sense. I’ve been taught to serve with humility and grace,” said Allen.

The decision to retire, he says, is a personal one that was made prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Allen says one of the things he’s most proud of during his tenure is the team that he has worked alongside, noting that there are challenges when it comes to staffing the sheriff’s office.

“Getting staff to man these organizations has been a challenge. Currently, we’re about 12 positions down, 12 officers down. So we work really hard with recruitment,” Allen said.

He also addressed the challenges surrounding mental health treatment of offenders inside the Roanoke City Jail.

“We have become the de facto hospital of the nation. Jails all across the United States are dealing with all types of issues,” said Allen.

Since he took office in 2014, there has been at least one in-custody death reported every year at the Roanoke City Jail, with the exception of 2016 and year-to-date 2020. A number of those deaths have been suicides.

“You won’t know everything at your family or at your work. You won’t know everything about each individual’s life there,” says the sheriff. “Coming to jail can be one of the most traumatic things that can happen to an individual. So that in and of itself, can create a lot of stress and a lot of depression,” he says.

As WFXR has previously reported, there have been several wrongful death suits filed in relation to those in-custody deaths.

“I feel like this staff has done everything that they humanly possible could do to prevent any type of incident from going on in here,” Allen said.

A therapeutic unit was implemented in the jail in 2018 to assist offenders with mental health needs.

“A lot of people that make their mind up that they want to commit suicide, they don’t exhibit signs. They don’t broadcast that to anyone else. That’s just something that they will decide to do,” said Allen. “I think it’s really helped when we’ve been able to identify something. When the medical team has been able to identify, it allows a person an area for more intense treatment in there.”

He also discussed the implementation of technology to scan for contraband during the intake process, a way to address some of issues arising from the opioid crisis.

“I’m most proud of the way we’ve all worked together in this facility,” Allen said.

Ultimately, he says he’s confident the sheriff’s office will be left in good hands when Maj. David Bell assumes the role of interim sheriff in January. Allen did not discuss what he will be pursuing after he retires from his role, but says he feels it’s the right time to move on.

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