‘It's been a great ride. I have no regrets': Roanoke police chief discusses successes, challenges

Ahead of his retirement early next year, 10 News speaks with Chief Tim Jones

ROANOKE, Va. – Roanoke Police Chief Tim Jones said Friday that he feels the end of January is simply "the right time" to retire, and after receiving both accolades and criticism as the city's top cop, he's not being forced out.

10 News spoke with Jones at the department's headquarters, after the news broke Thursday that he'd step down in 2020.

Jones has served as chief for the last three years and will be turning in his badge after nearly four decades with the department.

"I feel great. The decision was totally mine. It's just the right time to transition out for me personally and professionally," Jones said.

He said his nearly 39-year career, which he began in Roanoke when he was 21 years old, has been fulfilling and rewarding.

"It's been a great ride," Jones said." I have no regrets and I'm looking forward to opening a new chapter in life."

As to why he made the decision now as opposed to waiting a few more years, he said there will always be more a department wants to do, but his to-do list would never be empty, and he didn't want to wait another decade to hang it up.

He said he's proud of the time he spent cutting his teeth as a sergeant, supervising other officers in the late '90's and early 2000s. He also listed the formation of the Roanoke Police Academy and just being a part of the department as highlights for him.

But it hasn't always been a smooth road. He said he's been frustrated by those who've voiced opposition to his policies and comments, with recent criticism coming over his statements on rape victims and shootings.

"Our society today hangs on every word and they're so emotionally charged that if one particular narrative does not meet what a particular group thinks it should be then you're going to get controversy for it and I've received my share of that," Jones said. "And I make no apologies for taking a particular position one way or the other."

He believes criticism is something that police chiefs will have to deal with more and more as time goes on.

He said he has appreciated the calls and emails of support he's received during periods when he's faced criticism.

"The positive support of the community, the silent majority through those friction points of time are really what sustained me," Jones said.

Some have alleged that the Roanoke Police Department does not keep up with the most up-to-date policing policies, a claim Jones denies.

"A lot of folks say maybe I'm not as progressive or as academically inclined. I say no to that," he said. "There are many people, more particularly those who are probably 20 years my junior, they think a 59-year-old chief of police is a dinosaur, but with my age comes a lot of history and wisdom."

Jones emphasized that the department is always looking for the best practices and the leading research, and its criminologist gives them an academic perspective.

Officers are looking at what's trending in other parts of the country as well.

"We're not always going to please everybody, but we have to make our decisions based on the totality of what is best for the community at large and sometimes that causes some friction," Jones said. "It's going to become more challenging for chiefs of police and for law enforcement officers at large."

Jones pointed out the debate over solutions to the opioid addiction crisis as an example of city leaders coming together to decide on the best solutions. He had long opposed a needle exchange program, but backed it when the city approved one earlier this year.

Jones believes the biggest challenge for the next chief in Roanoke will be identifying better ways to convince people that violent actions aren't the best solution to their situation. He also said that the increased scrutiny officers are under, including wearing body cameras, adds more challenges, but also allows the department to grow.

He said if the city likes the direction in which the department is headed, then it should consider candidates within the department for his successor. Whoever the next chief is, Jones hopes they understand the importance of community engagement, which has been a major push for the department.

"I just appreciate the support from the city of Roanoke and its citizens over my 39 years, and I wish nothing but the best for this city and this organization moving forward," Jones said.

He said he's looking forward to his final few months as chief, and to having plenty of time to go fishing during retirement. 

Jones said he may write a book on his experiences in Roanoke.