By Debbie Adams
Members of Vinton Town Council, town staff, leaders of local businesses and organizations, and regular citizens are frequently heard bragging about the exemplary performance of the police force in Vinton, who go above and beyond what they are required to do.
“We are very fortunate to have a highly qualified, well trained, professional police department,” says Mayor Brad Grose. “Most people are aware that the Vinton Police Department has been fully accredited by a state agency for almost two decades. The accreditation ensures that strict compliance to high standards of training, record keeping, equipment, conduct and many other aspects of Policing are constantly maintained.
“Community policing and citizen contact has always been important to the Vinton Police Department. Under the direction of Chief Tom Foster, the VPD has risen to a new level of community involvement,” he said. “With support from Vinton Town Council, Chief Foster secured an important, and very effective trailer that is used at various community events.
“Several times, I have been present as our Police Department, along with the Fire Department, and the Rescue Squad have visited a local apartment complex to interact with the children on Saturday morning. Of course, several parents usually attend the events,” the mayor continued. “The playful interaction between the children and the police officers is truly heartwarming and encouraging! The children liked the games, but they loved the opportunity to soak the officers with a water hose!
“Several years ago, the Vinton Police Department displayed a fully operational police car at the Gladetown Reunion. The children were all over the vehicle and the accompanying officer. As expected, the children had many questions for the officer and seemed fascinated by all the equipment. The adults seemed to be equally intrigued and often engaged the officer.
“Just last week, I was invited to a drive-through birthday party for a special needs young lady at another apartment complex in Vinton. My wife and I had driven through the parking lot, greeted our friend, and collected some wonderful cake. As we started to leave, we saw two police cars arriving along with a civilian vehicle. We happily joined the parade and witnessed the extreme excitement of the ‘birthday girl’ as the police officers turned on their red and blue lights and sirens,” he said.
“These are just three examples of the type of interaction our police officers have with the citizens of Vinton on a regular basis. The Town of Vinton is a safe, peaceful place, due in part, to our professional police officers and the great relationship they have with the citizens of our community,” Mayor Grose said. “While no agency is perfect, I truly believe that we are blessed with outstanding leadership and officers in the Vinton Police Department!”
Mike Maust, general manager at the Precision Fabrics Group (PFG), said “The Vinton PD is awesome! Every time we have needed them, they are here. Regardless of the nature of our need, they show up ready to assist.
“Talk about community policing, we use them as a resource for improving policies, vetting our security measures, discussing potentially volatile situations; they even helped us with a buzzard roosting issue a few years back! We’ve had issues with folks running the light in front of the Plant and putting our associates at risk. They haven’t been able to completely eliminate it, but they have done a lot to minimize it. Only a couple of those things would be regarded as ‘real’ Police work.. the rest is pure Community Service. When we have needed them for ‘real’ Police work, which thankfully has been few and far between, they are very professional and responsive.
“I would say that from PFG’s perspective, they epitomize community policing. We’re glad to have them and I don’t think the lack of outrage around the Vinton PD, as we see in other places, is a coincidence,” Maust said.
Youth Services Programmer Beadie Childress shares, “One officer in Vinton came to my community and helped the oldest person living in the community with her dog, who was really old and sickly. The officer came and took the dog away for her. She called and told me her story. She was crying and saying how nice and kind this officer was. The dog had been with her for years and she was going to be by herself. She felt like this officer would make sure her dog was okay. By time I got off the phone with her, I was crying. It takes a special person to make someone trust you that way. Thank you, Officer Caldwell! Vinton has a really good police department and leadership.”
Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce President Justin Davison said, “The Vinton PD has been a great partner to work with. We utilize them for all of our events and have a solid partnership with them. One of the aspects I love the most is that they interact with the residents who attend our events and often answer various questions and help the public better understand a stance or thought process behind a policy or tactic. This dialogue is extremely important when continuing to build that community policing ideology and creating a healthy town atmosphere.”
“Our Vinton Police Department is nothing short of amazing,” said Chamber Executive Director Angie Chewning. “They are a vital part of our community. They are leaders, friends, support and just so much more. They never hesitate to help when needed, whether it is a crisis of some sort or a community event. They are a friendly wave on the street, a conversation at a local business or event. From the top of the ranks to the newest on the force – we are lucky to have them. I know they don’t hear it as often as they should but ‘thank you for all you do!’”
“Several years ago, my dog Sophia decided to take one of her famous strolls by herself,” said Kathryn Sowers, of the Chamber and the GFWC Woman’s Club. “We looked for her for over three hours. The town police came to my home and took a picture of her with them to look for her while they were on patrol during the night. She actually came home on her own about 3 a.m., but I was so appreciative that they would offer to help. No, she never told us where she had been, but she also never tried it again.
“Every year the GFWC Woman’s Club of Vinton and the town’s Police Department sponsor the Child Abuse Prevention Month pinwheel garden at the raised flower beds at the Municipal Building. They are always there to assist with the planting of the pinwheels and the banner.”
“From my perspective of living in the Vinton area my entire life, we are extremely fortunate to have our community police system,” said Realtor Tim Greenway who also represents Vinton on the Roanoke County School Board. “As with any group there can be a few bad apples, but I can honestly say I haven’t met one in Vinton. Most of these men and women live in our community, play in our community and may be friends of some of us. We support them 100 percent.
“One item to note is the service they provide to our schools. They are not technically resource officers, but I have asked, and Chief Foster was quick to provide officers to drive by to check on each school during class days. They also provide traffic help from time to time and anytime we need some special attention to a school they are quick to offer help,” Greenway said. “Thank you, Vinton Police!”
Realtor Brad Greenway adds, “The national media and even sometimes regional media make assumptions that don’t always fit what we see here in our town. I’ve spoken with a couple of Vinton Police officers since all the craziness broke out and what I’ve learned is I think it is very important to show our support during this tough time. I think they feel like support is at an all-time low. They’ve got an increasingly difficult job with decreasing public support. I think what gets lost in all this is that we, as citizens, also have a responsibility to help them do their job. That requires accountability, communication, and trust on the citizens’ part of interactions as well, and that gets lost by the media a lot of times. We all have a responsibility and a role to play in the well-being of the community. Our officers are present in the community; they are a part of the community; they interact with the community; and they’ve done a great job here in Vinton of keeping things safe in the community.”