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'We need to be bold, courageous': Former Norfolk Police Chief Boone speaks out after retirement

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Posted at 12:35 PM, May 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-17 10:05:36-04

NORFOLK, Va. - We're hearing from Former Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone for the first time since his retirement from the department earlier this month.

"I think that after spending 33 years in the department that I love and having the fortunate opportunity to become chief of that department, I think it's only proper to say something on your way out," Boone told News 3 Monday.

It's been more than a month since we last heard from Former Chief Boone. The last time he spoke with News 3 was during investigations of the tragic MacArthur Center shooting in April.

Former Chief Boone served more than 30 years with the department, and as the city's top cop since 2016, before his last day in office on April 8.

We asked Boone how he's been since leaving office.

"Fantastic," Boone said. "I get the customary six hours of sleep a night. I've been great."

Tackling gun violence was a priority for Boone during his time as chief of police.

For two years, News 3 has been digging into the impact of illegal guns in Hampton Roads and how police departments, including Norfolk, are tracking these firearms and straw purchases.

News 3 talked with Chief Boone about the city's gun violence, especially shootings from this past weekend. One of the area's past weekend's shootings was at a vigil in Norfolk's Berkeley Park for another shooting victim.

News 3 asked Boone what a Monday morning response would be like after a weekend like this past one if he was still on the job.

"We typically would not wait to Monday morning. We would be briefing the next day, preparing for Monday morning," Boone said. "Norfolk is a very dynamic city. And as such, in law enforcement, you're constantly preparing for said event or the next event. You're constantly looking at data and how you can address some of this. And it's tough. It's awfully difficult to do some things, with respect to any gun violence, with the number of vacancies that we currently have."

Boone also talked about the recent mass shooting at Norfolk's Young Terrace neighborhood, where three women were killed and two others were injured.

Ziontay Palmer, 19, was arrested and charged in this case.

Boone talked with News 3 about the violent scene that impacted his officers. He mentioned he instructed officers to get counseling afterwards.

"It was an awful incident to see those women in close proximity laid out, and just yards away, little kids just looking on. That's an incident I'll never forget. And it impacted me in such a fashion that I wanted to speak truth to it. To cry, at those scenes, it truly impacted me. And I was just frustrated. It was never ending. It weighs on you," Boone said. "There's only so much that you can take of every night of somebody being shot and you feel so helpless."

News 3 asked Boone what needs to be done to address crime in Downtown Norfolk after a recent shooting on Granby Street earlier this year.

"I think the city has taken some good steps, some large steps into addressing that. In fact, that was one of the last plans I submitted before retiring," Boone said. "The cameras, the strategic positioning of officers and marked vehicles, that was the last email I sent to the city manager before retiring."

Since Boone's exit, there has been a lot of talk about staffing shortages within the police department, and morale among the rank and file.

News 3 asked Boone about his take on the state of the city, especially the city's leadership and the police department.

"Let me just stay in my lane, and my lane goes with law enforcement. I have some concerns about the number of vacancies. That's going to be insurmountable to overcome in the short," Boone said. "The vacancies have been an issue going back as early as January 2019. I started meeting with every officer, as well as every professional staff member in the department to address two things. Man power and pay. One of the things that I was deeply concerned about was the number of people that was resigning, particularly after the George Floyd incident. It's going to take some really hard work to regain those vacancies, but it starts with pay."

News 3 Anchor Zak Dahlheimer also asked if changing police chiefs is enough to boost morale within the police department.

"That depends. Morale is a tricky thing," Boone said. "It's real. It's a real perception and a real reality for some officers. It's a whole hot bowl of soup when you get down to it because it impacts each individual differently."

When asked about his exit from the City of Norfolk, Boone replied, "I'm retired."

News 3 followed up with Boone about the circumstances around his exit.

Boone said, "I've been in this profession for a minute. I think you know my personality. I try not to let anybody muscle me into doing something I don't want to do. I've retired."

When asked whether he felt he was the scapegoat for the city's crime problem, Boone said, "Norfolk has always had challenges with respect to crime. Do I feel I was the scapegoat? I have to say no, because I elected to retire."

When Boone was asked about what he's most proud of during his time in Norfolk as chief of police, he said, "There's no one thing. As an organization, we have done some tremendous things by way of crime prevention; by way of leadership; by way of promotions; by way of community outreach; by way of transparency."

Finally, Boone was asked what his main message is to Norfolk residents and to whoever his successor will be.

"We need to be bold, courageous and place the community at the center of every decision that you make," he said. "In addition to that, specifically for said police chief, explain to the rank and file why that is necessary."

As for what's next for Boone, he mentioned he's going to continue to take some time and see what opportunities come.