NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Amid a rise in violence across the city, Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone is set to retire at the end of April, according to Norfolk’s city manager.

His last day leading the department will be Friday.

City Manager Chip Filer made the announcement on Wednesday afternoon. While Boone in a statement insinuated the move was his decision, doubt quickly spread that it was not.

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Boone, who first joined the Norfolk Police Department in 1989, has served as the police chief since December 2016.

Known for his grandiose and gripping presence, Boone was outspoken in his more than five-year run as chief about the gun violence and its impact on the black community. He would often try to rally the community after tragedies and wasn’t afraid to get emotional.

Before serving as chief, Boone was deputy chief for a year. He also served in the Canine Unit, Gang Suppression Unit, Metro-Tactical Unit, the Office of Professional Standards and Patrol Division

“After serving this community for over 30 years, I have decided the time is right to retire,” Boone said in a statement from the city manager’s office. “My goal was to see the department through the pandemic and, as we begin to emerge, there is an opportunity for a change in leadership.”

READ CHIEF BOONE’S RESIGNATION LETTER

Filer also praised the outgoing chief.

“We are grateful for Chief Boone’s years of service to our city. He established partnerships and outreach initiatives that fostered relationships between our police and our community,” said Filer. “As we begin to move forward from the pandemic, which Chief helped see his department through, we have a chance to further our efforts in building those relationships.”

The Norfolk Branch NAACP also released a statement on Boone’s retirement Thursday.

“The Norfolk Branch NAACP would like to take this opportunity to thank Chief Larry Boone for his 33 years of service to the residents and Norfolk Police Department in the City of Norfolk. We acknowledge that at times it was one of the most difficult jobs, but you always put the needs of the citizens and members of the Norfolk Police Department priority. Chief Boone did his due diligence to build trust between the community and law enforcement.

“We recognize that being a law enforcement officer is an extremely dangerous occupation especially given the recent events in our city. Therefore, the Norfolk Branch NAACP would like to thank you for your leadership, support, and dedication to the tasks, and for rallying around our communities in the most
difficult times.”

However, several sources familiar with the situation, but not authorized to speak publicly, tell 10 On Your Side that Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander as well as other council member gave an ultimatum to Filer following recent violence. While council members cannot hire or fire the police chief, they do hire and fire the chief’s boss: the city manager. In this case, sources say it was a “either it’s Boone or you” scenario.

Alexander denies that happened.

“No person on the council, we don’t have the authority to hire or fire the police chief,” Alexander said. “My opinion is [Boone] is a phenomenal person. He is an amazing guy. And I wish him and his family the very best.”

When asked if Boone was doing a good job trying to address the increase in violence, Alexander responded: “we can all do better.”

The search process for a new chief is expected to take five months. Deputy City Manager Michael Goldsmith will serve as the interim police chief. He will begin his transition on April 8, a city spokeswoman confirmed to 10 On Your Side.

Goldsmith was with the police department for 27 years, including four years as the chief.

He is set to take over the department on the heels of increasing violent crime in Norfolk. There have been two deadly shootings in downtown Norfolk in the past few weeks.

Since a quintuple shooting on March 19 left two people dead and three others injured, the Norfolk Police Department has increased patrols around downtown Thursdays through Saturdays. It has started making unannounced visits to restaurants and “entertainment establishments” that have conditional use permits (CUPs) to check for city code violations and to “provide a visible presence in the area.”

Two weeks later, three people were shot inside the MacArthur Center. One man died on the scene. Two others, a man and a woman, were shot in the ankles.

While crime is up across the region — 10 On Your Side has recorded more than 155 instances of shootings across the Hampton Roads and northeast North Carolina region this year — to date, at least 40 of them have been in Norfolk. Norfolk recorded 62 homicides within the last year, 58 involving guns according to Sgt. William Pickering, with Norfolk Police.

However, Boone’s leadership has also come under scrutiny. The department currently is more than 200 officers short, with a little more than 520 officers currently on the force. Police union groups have also long complained about the culture inside the department under Boone’s watch.

At a public hearing for Norfolk’s next budget Wednesday night, Mike Lynch, president of the Norfolk Chapter of the Police Benevolent Association, said Boone’s departure was a surprise but not unwelcome.

“I think it’s going to be a good thing,” Lynch said. “”Different look, different aspect. Different politics of the whole thing.”

Lynch doesn’t think his departure is enough to stop the bleeding of officers. He spoke in front of City Council asking for immediate better pay and benefits.

“We would like to discuss our current pay structures that lag behind other agencies in the area,” Lynch said.

Mayor Alexander told Lynch and the more the roughly 100 officers standing behind them that on top of the 5% raise proposed in Filer’s budget, the City Council is asking for an additional $2.3 million included for step increases.

To this, some shouted, “not enough.”


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that 2021 was a record year for homicides in Norfolk. This has been updated. WAVY-TV regrets the error.