Acting Virginia Beach city manager addresses improvements to security, training after mass shooting

Posted at 4:06 PM, Mar 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-03 16:59:32-05

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Their goal was to find a motive as to why an engineer opened fire, killing 12 of his co-workers and injuring four others.

While that didn't happen, Hillard Heintze, a Chicago firm hired by the City of Virginia Beach, did spell out six key findings and the need for 27 improvements to human resources, 20 improvements to public safety and 11 improvements to facilities and security.

"We found many of them or an equivalent was already in place," said Thomas Leahy, Acting City Manager. "Also, it's important to note none of these recommendations would have prevented what happened that day."

On Tuesday afternoon, Leahy addressed the Virginia Beach City Council about what they plan to implement after dissecting the firm's 262-page report that took more than 16 weeks at a cost of nearly $500,000 to complete.

One of the firm's recommendations was to restructure human resources.

"As the city has gone through a number of belt tightenings, Human Resources was either cut back or not allowed to grow," Leahy explained.

Leahy would like to embed human resources professionals inside each city department.

"This would require 10 existing full-time employees, and we would like to add 15 new full-time employees and that would cost about $1.5 million a year," said Leahy.

Hillard Heintze recommended the addition of a Threat Assessment Team, which would provide more security during times where employees are disciplined.

"This team would help decide when law enforcement needs to be brought in," said Leahy.

Leahy said the city would also like to spend $200,000 a year on more employee trainings that could help identify red flags.

"There needs to be more substance abuse, domestic violence, workplace harassment, violence prevention, basics and warning signs trainings," said Leahy.

Building improvements and additional security was another one of the firm's recommendations.

"On May 31, we know that police couldn't get in doors and locks quickly and easily," said Leahy.

Related: Virginia Beach mass shooting survivor tells her story for the first time

Leahy said the city has 387 buildings, so they would like to implement a Facilities Security Division to create universal or computerized locks for access during emergencies.

"In the short run, we are providing VBPD with electronic access," said Leahy.

The cost for these improvements would run the city about $5.5 million a year. Leahy is asking for this in next year's budget.