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Norfolk's interim police chief shares his outlook, vision for the department

Interim Chief Mike Goldsmith said department leaders want to create an environment where officers want to work, noting objectives over the next decade.

NORFOLK, Va. — Norfolk's interim police chief unveiled plans for the future of the department while also addressing current issues facing the city. 

Interim Chief Mike Goldsmith shared an outlook and vision for the police force during a Norfolk City Council retreat Friday. 

One of his big goals is to build up the police force. The department is currently down roughly 235 police officers, and Goldsmith said the city is projected to lose more to retirement over the next coming years. 

A "massive recruitment effort" is underway, said Goldsmith.

The police department recently garnered the national spotlight for a viral Facebook post of a pair of officers dubbed Norfolk's "Hot Cops." The agency turned the attention into a recruitment opportunity.  

The department is not only thinking outside of the box but outside of the state. Department leaders are turning to other parts of the country to find new people, including along the East Coast and Pacific Northwest. 

In August, 13News Now reported Norfolk police briefly ran a recruitment advertisement in a New York City subway this past spring. At the time, a police spokesperson said the ad ran between May 24 to July 3 and cost around $50,000. 

According to Goldsmith, they’ve hired four people from those ads, and two more applicants are undergoing background checks.

Goldsmith also hopes to gain about 50 new officers in the spring from the latest current recruitment class, and leaders plan to launch another class directly following. 

"The key is building a department that people want to work," said Goldsmith. 

Goldsmith, a deputy city manager, became interim police chief in April, following the announcement of former chief Larry Boone's retirement. Goldsmith previously served as the city's top cop.

He also introduced guiding principles for the future of the city's policing.  The objectives aim to foster a better environment for officers and to improve retention and quality of service by 2035. 

“We are going to make a heavy investment in making sure that these officers understand that we’re going to do our level best to provide a great place for them to work," he said.

Those objectives include focusing on investing in the overall wellness of police officers, implementing training to change the culture of the department and emphasize service-style leadership, highlighting the importance of diversity, providing more learning opportunities and accountability systems, and to be operationally sound. 

As for now, the department is looking to launch a Real Time Crime Center likely by the end of the year. That would create a hub for information, like videos, reports, and service calls to reduce crime.

“The idea is to build a picture that we can act on. Quite frankly, the goal is to reduce crime. Not necessarily make arrests, but reduce crime," said Goldsmith. 

Among other considerations by end of the year, leaders said city staff are working to replace parking garage cameras in several locations and their supporting software and hardware. 

This summer, Norfolk police also restructured its strategy to get more officers on patrol. The department also shifted resources and cut down in-person officer responses to some non-emergency calls, while touting other reporting options for certain situations, like the Online Citizens Reporting System.

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