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Virginia Beach city leaders respond to independent mass shooting investigation with recommendations

Acting City Manager Tom Leahy announced the budget for Virginia Beach, which will take on recommendations to make city buildings safer for employees.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — City leaders are moving forward with recommendations to make city buildings safer for employees and community members.

On Tuesday, Acting City Manager Tom Leahy announced his 2020-2021 proposed budget, which includes $5.5 million in additional resources. It comes after consulting firm Hillard-Heintze provided 58 recommendations to city staff following the mass shooting on May 31, 2019.

“You are going find a few areas that we don’t agree with but certainly nothing that would alter the findings," Leahy explained.

He told city council members that the biggest recommendation is restructuring the Human Resources department. It would require 10 existing full-time employees and adding 15 new full-time staff members. Leahy said that each member of the team would be embedded in several city departments.

“The report did not indicate that our human resource policy or functions at the time or our environment or the city at the time played a role in the attacker's modification,” Leahy explained.

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Leahy said it would eliminate the perceived department conflicts where the HR liaison actually reports to the department’s director. He said it would also eliminate a lot of inconsistent HR policies where one department would adopt one set and interpret a policy one way and another department would interpret it somewhat differently.

“That person would be able to understand the processes and the people in that department and they would be able to do a better job in resolving these HR conflicts," he remarked.

Other recommendations include forming a threat assessment team, adding more training for supervisors and more resources for first responders. Police and firefighters would also receive more training and would have electronic access to all city buildings. They would also have breaching kits. 

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For communication, Leahy said he wants to make sure employees update their contact information during their annual review. He also says more people need to sign up for emergency alerts on their phones, but he said leaders can’t force employees to sign up.

“ECCS is looking at putting in a system that would actually allow them to launch messages even without an opt-in requirement,” he said.

One of the recommendations Hillard-Heintze had would city leaders to do background checks whenever they want on city workers. 

Leahy said that will not happen.

"We can do investigations on employees when we hire them. We can do investigations on employees for cause, but we simply don’t have the authority and Virginia code doesn’t allow us to be able to have periodic investigations and checkups of our workforce.”

The Virginia Beach Police Department is still finishing up its investigation into the mass shooting. Officials said it will be completed by late summer or early fall.

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