Virginia Beach’s new police chief ready to tackle depleted police staff, low morale

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – The City of Virginia Beach has a new chief of police.

Paul Neudigate was officially sworn in during a brief ceremony at City Hall conducted via Zoom Tuesday morning because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief Neudigate will lead a department of 840 men and women. He comes to Virginia Beach from Cincinnati where he was the assistant police chief.

He worked there for 30 years, during which he worked with newly appointed City Manager Patrick Duhaney.

“There is no doubt these are some of the most challenging times in law enforcement, but I have already found in the short time here, we have a great police department. Great men and women building relationships in the community with servants hearts,” said Neudigate.

Neudigate granted his first media interviews Wednesday to celebrate his first day on the job. 

He discussed what he wants to do, what type of a leader he will be, and what his concerns are. 

He moved to the area with his wife because they wanted to leave Cincinnati to be closer to the ocean where there’s better weather and a welcoming community.  

One officer told 10 On Your Side taking over the Virginia Beach Police Department is not a turnkey operation. There are serious issues facing Neudigate, who has been in law enforcement 31 years. 

One of the biggest issues a depleted police force.

According to department spokeswoman MPO Linda Kuehn, the department is authorized to have 813 sworn personnel, but currently only has 750 officers — that means 63 vacancies.

“What I would like to do moving forward is to have an actual staffing study to see what the workload analysis is for Virginia Beach. I want to see if there are tasks that we are engaged in that are not a police department function. To see if the tasks are suited better for a different organization to help overcome some of the deficit.”

Another issue: Documented low morale on the police force.

“First of all, we’re going to have listening sessions and bringing in the rank-and-file first … then leadership … I’m going to sit down with my staff, and we are going to go on a very aggressive roll call attendance and sit down with the sergeants where the rubber really meets the road.” 

Neudigate says he wants to be transparent.

“I am a very collaborative manager. I want input and we will find common ground on how to move forward. It will not be a lot of unilateral power; I am a delegator.” 

Minutes after Neudigate was named chief, he emailed Brian “Lucky” Luciano who is president of the Virginia Beach Police Benevolent Association. 

Luciano was impressed.

“I was because that tells me a couple of things: he’s open to a dialogue, and second someone told him about us and brought him up to speed on the organization.” 

Luciano thinks Neudigate’s biggest challenge is that depleted police force.

“We are at the point now; the officers are concerned we don’t even have the manpower to keep each other safe, let alone keep the citizens of Virginia Beach safe.  This can’t go on. We are hemorrhaging officers right now.” 

It also explains why businesses owners on Atlantic Avenue complained all summer there was not enough police presence.

“We need to address pay and benefits. We need to become much more competitive not only in this area but throughout the country” 

 Luciano’s group wants a chief whose interest at heart is their interest.

“It has to be a chief who is vocal and is an invincible advocate for the officers. Not only with the people, but also with counsel and with the city manager.” 

Neudigate works for the City Manager Patrick Duhaney who brought him to Hampton Roads from Cincinnati. 

When asked to whom he would be loyal, he said the city manager, but also police rank-and-file and the police leadership team.

“All I ask is to provide me feedback as your police chief.  I will take the issue to the city manager and then to City Council, but whatever the decision is, we will do our best to abide by it, and move forward on the mission we have to do.” 

The chief gets the value of getting opinions.

“People like to work for me because I value their opinion, and that is a big part of morale, they want to feel valued … and with me, they are.” 

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