JAMES CITY COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — For the first time, a police chief from James City County is addressing the shooting that happened between two off-duty officers in January.
Police Chief Mark Jamison took over the James City County Police Department in July. He agreed to sit down with 10 On Your Side Wednesday.
It was the first opportunity we had to ask department leadership directly about the incident, during which Officer Michael Rusk allegedly shot and seriously hurt his superior officer, Sgt. Christopher Gibson, outside a Williamsburg bar.
Rusk is facing charges in connection to the shooting, which investigators initially said happened as a result of a “verbal argument” after a night of drinking.
Since then, 10 On Your Side reporting has found that Rusk claimed he thought Gibson “was going to rape him” and that he was “advancing on him” before the shooting occurred.
Rusk said he was placed on unpaid leave following the shooting. After recovering from his injuries, Gibson was preparing to return to work. After 10 On Your Side’s report of the sexual assault claims, however, Gibson was placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation.
“The internal investigation, like we’ve mentioned, is still ongoing,” Jamison said. “As you know, we can’t comment on internal investigations — that’s a personnel matter, as well as the criminal investigation, that’s coming up to trial.”
“It would be inappropriate for me to comment on that,” he said.
Jamison said he will wait for Williamsburg Police to complete their investigation before commenting.
“Once we know what’s in the investigation and we review it,” he said, “then we put policies and procedures in place, if it’s warranted, to correct anything that’s occurred, that it was wrong inappropriate, whatever it may be.”
Jamison did not go into the events that happened with the two officers, and decisions that were made resulting from it, before he became police chief.
“I can’t go into the decisions that were made prior to me getting here,” Jamison said. “I do know officers have rights just like citizens do, and again, being an open and internal investigation, I can’t say why someone is and someone isn’t [on paid leave].”
See the full interview with new James City County Police Chief Mark Jamison below:
We also asked Jamison about prior reports of bullying and a “toxic” work environment within the department. Outside consultants were brought in last year to interview department employees about these claims.
“I’ve heard the issues with morale,” Jamison said. “I have not read the reports. My goal was to talk to individual officers in the staff first, and then if I need to, then I’ll go back [and read them].”
Jamison said he has been meeting with every single member of the department to get their take on what needs work.
“Some of them are short [meetings], 30 minutes,” Jamison said. “Some of them were as long as two hours. Some of them have brought up the prior last couple of years that happened here, and I listen and I really don’t have anything I can offer them cause I wasn’t here, other than my style of leadership. [It’s] about engaging our folks, learning from them, really getting to know them building those relationships,” he said.
Jamison came to James City County from the Lynchburg Police Department, which he joined in 1997. He said he’s relying on his decades of experience in this new role.
“My interaction with our folks has been very positive, they seem to have a good attitude about where we can go moving forward,” he said.
Jamison says his big goal for the department is recruitment and retention. He said he’s hired an outside firm to come in and help with that. He also wants to focus on employee wellness.
“Law enforcement suicide is a problem, and I think if we can provide the resources…three things I focus on: Mental wellness, physical wellness, financial wellness,” he said.
Jamison said he’s looking forward to moving the department forward.
“This is a dedicated law enforcement individuals here with a spirt of service, and I’ve been excited with my interaction with them,” he said.