NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — For the first time, details surrounding former Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone’s departure from the Norfolk Police Department have been revealed to 10 On Your Side by officers with knowledge of the discussions.
In April, Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer announced Boone would retire from the department after working in the NPD for over 30 years, five of those as chief of police. Still, news of his sudden departure left many community members questioning whether the decision to leave was entirely his.
Speaking exclusively to 10 On Your Side’s Jon Dowding, two veteran Norfolk Police officers say Boone was the latest victim of a pattern they’ve seen repeat itself for decades within the department.
The officers say they’re not allowed to speak to members of the media on the record. For that reason, they asked to keep their identities hidden and will be referred to as Officer A and Officer B.
10 On Your Side’s Brett Hall first reported hearing rumors of an ultimatum, which led to former Chief Larry Boone’s departure.
According to his reporting from April 6:
“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 members gave an ultimatum to Filer following recent violence.”10 On Your Side’s Brett Hall, April 6, 2022
City leaders have not asked us to retract that statement since it was first reported.
Now, current Norfolk police officers confirm to 10 On Your Side what’s been rumored from the beginning.
These officers say Boone was just the latest scapegoat who they say was blamed for problems with crime in the city.
They say a “pattern” has repeated itself during their tenure with the NPD, but more on that later.
‘A WHOLE, BIG BOTCHED RETIREMENT’
Officers A and B say Boone’s departure stems from results of a routine internal survey about the department conducted last year.
Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer said survey response rates were relatively low in the NPD.
“I don’t have an exact recall on the number, but it was maybe somewhere around 20%, 20-30% of the department that responded,” said Filer.
Officer A says results of the surveys led Filer to ask Boone to fire two assistant chiefs of police without cause.
10 On Your Side asked Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer whether there was an order given to Boone to fire two assistant police chiefs.
Officer A explained an officer cannot be fired without cause based on the Law-Enforcement Officers Procedural Guarantee Act. The exception to the law applies to the chief of police.
The officers who spoke to 10 On Your Side say Boone refused to fire the two assistant chiefs without cause because it’s illegal.
“The City Manager told him either get that done with those two or you’re going to be terminated,” said Officer A. “So Boone says to him, ‘There’s no reason for you to terminate me.’ So the City Manager, realizing that, then suggested that, ‘Maybe you should just retire.’ And that’s why that thing seemed like a whole, big botched retirement.”
‘HE LET THIS HAPPEN TO BOONE’
The whole time, the officers say Mayor Kenny Alexander knew what was going on and what could ultimately happen.
“The Mayor knew what was transpiring and what was supposed to transpire,” said Officer A. “This whole idea that, ‘I don’t know anything’, it’s just, it’s just not factual. And that’s why people are pissed at him right now because one, he let this happen to Boone. And two, he’s just not telling the truth. Neither one of them are.”
10 On Your Side reached out to the city manager and the mayor for comment. City Manager Filer agreed to do an interview, so we brought these claims to Filer.
“While it looked surprising, I think, on the outside, it was not all that surprising,” said Filer. “Sometimes reality doesn’t quite match what folks are thinking and the reality here was pretty simple. Chief Boone was ready to retire, he decided to retire.”
Back in May, Boone sat down with 10 On Your Side for his first public interview since leaving office. When asked if it was his decision to retire, he responded with three words.
“Nobody muscles me.”
Officers A and B say they weren’t so pleased by his answer.
“Folks were a little upset when Boone actually spoke to the media because he didn’t put the entire story about what happened out there,” said Officer A.
Then Officer A said they later understood Boone would be limited in responses he could give.
“We were a little irritated with that, but then understanding that he’s probably under a nondisclosure agreement of some type until a certain period of time and I think that’s what it is,” said Officer A.
PROOF OF A PATTERN?
With this understanding, Officer A says it’s important for them to speak out to break a pattern they say they’ve seen repeated since the beginning of their tenure in the NPD.
“Things have gotten worse than better,” said Officer A. “Seeing two Black police chiefs who have, essentially been, for lack of a better word, set up for failure and used as scapegoats taken down in the manner they were taken down.”
These two officers, however, aren’t alone.
In a March 2022 email to 10 On Your Side, a person identifying themselves as a concerned officer said, in part, quote:
“Some city council members have a personal agenda to see our Chief fail… I can guarantee, the moment city council can get their right (white) counterparts in the police department to ‘Chief Marquee [Marquis] him’ everything will all of a sudden start falling in ‘place’.”Concerned Officer email – March 10, 2022
Former Norfolk Police Chief Bruce Marquis, the last Black chief before Boone, retired in April 2011 following controversy over the death of a police recruit during training.
These officers also spoke to us about what they say is a pattern of unequal access to opportunities for officers of color within the department.
When we brought these issues to Filer, he said the department is only moving forward.
“This is going to be a progressive policing department,” he said.
In a July 19, 2022 Norfolk City Council Work Session, Councilman Paul Riddick addressed what he’s heard from officers.
These officers also spoke for over an hour about a number of issues they’ve seen in the decades they’ve been with the NPD, from culture concerns in the department to a group of officers who they say are calling the shots.
This is an ongoing investigation and anyone who wants to speak out is encouraged to reach out to 10 On Your Side’s Jon Dowding.