Newly released emails show Roanoke police chief is critical of critics

City Council members say there's no rift between them and Jones

By Tommy Lopez - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - Newly released emails now a part of public record give more insight into what Roanoke Police Chief Tim Jones has been thinking since he faced some criticism for comments he made in a Feb. 19 City Council meeting.

Comments he made in emails sent to supporters show he believed many in city leadership turned against him, and he’s critical of the people who criticized him. On Monday, some of those opponents fired back and City Council members gave more insight as to their relationship with the chief.

In one email to a supporter on March 5, less than a day before he released his public apology, Jones said the criticism is, “...the by-product of a growing society that has never been told no.”

The emails the city released were from between Feb. 19 and March 6.

The comments that started all the conversations came in a City Council meeting during an unscheduled discussion about an increase in reported rape cases in the city.

Jones presented recent crime statistics and then gave this explanation in response to a question:

“All too many young women put themselves at risk when alcohol and social behavior goes bad, and that’s what we are seeing the greatest in our investigations,” Jones said Feb. 19.

Some criticized him, saying he was blaming victims. A small group of opponents held protests and voiced their concerns at a later City Council meeting.

Jones issued an apology about a week after he declined an interview for a 10 News story on the discussions. In the apology, he said he didn’t intend on blaming victims.

Catherine Koebel, an organizer with the group Roanoke Indivisible, saw the newly released comments about opponents like her.

“I think that's unprofessional,” she said Monday.

She’s one of the people again calling for Jones to resign, saying that request is not personal. She wants police to base their practices on evidence and on what experts in the field are saying, and she believes Roanoke police are not always doing that.

"It is on more than one issue that we have this very broad concern of multiple data points of unprofessional behavior and an inability to keep up with modern policing expectations,” Koebel said. 

Other people have supported the chief, saying he was giving a fair warning to women.

In another email to a supporter, Jones said he believed council members were not supporting him, saying, “It has become very clear that City Council does not see me as the right fit for their new agenda.”

Some council members have publicly expressed concern over Jones’ comments. Others have stayed neutral, pointing to the fact that it’s the city manager who oversees the police chief -- and who could fire Jones.

Councilwoman Trish White-Boyd said council has no issue with Jones.

“I'm not aware of any rift, and I chuckle because I never knew any of that,” she said. “We've never had any conversations about that.”

Councilwoman White-Boyd says she’s meeting with local groups to see how the city can help combat what they feel is an increase in the number of women being raped in the Star City. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the city has announced at least one planned event.

Mayor Sherman Lea said Monday that he doesn’t have anything else to add. He has supported the chief.

A staff member said city manager Bob Cowell was unavailable for an interview Monday. A police spokeswoman said the same was true for Chief Jones, who was out of town.

In another email to a supporter, Jones said he hopes to retire soon and believed his “time here is now limited,” because he believed he’d lost the support of City Council.

Jones has been with the department for more than 35 years and has been chief since 2016.

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