Vinton Police Chief Cook retires, interim to be named Oct. 20

VINTON–Vinton Police Chief Benjamin Cook will be retiring effective October 25, 2015. He is accepting a position as Security Manager with Lewis Gale Medical Center. Cook has been with the Vinton police force since 2001 and was appointed chief four years ago.

A native of Franklin County, Cook has been in law enforcement and public safety for 30 years. He began his career as a Deputy Sheriff in Franklin County in 1985 and then served as a firefighter/paramedic and deputy fire marshal for Franklin County’s Public Safety department.  He was a police detective for Norfolk Southern Railroad before coming to work at the Vinton Police Department in 2001. He currently holds a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Bluefield College.

Vinton Police Chief Ben Cook retires effective October 25, 2015.
Vinton Police Chief Ben Cook retires effective October 25, 2015.

Cook served as the interim chief in Vinton when Herbert Cooley retired. He was then chosen for the lead position from a field of 27 applicants in December 2011.

Upon announcing his retirement plans to council, Chief Cook said, “I would like to thank Town Council, Town Staff, the men and women of the Vinton Police Department, as well as the citizens of Vinton for the support and trust they placed in me to serve as Chief of Police. The Vinton Police Department is a professional and dedicated law enforcement agency that will continue to serve our citizens well.”

Cook said he is excited about the opportunity to be part of the Lewis Gale Medical Center staff and looks forward to beginning a new chapter in his professional career.

In his job with Lewis Gale, Cook will be providing management and oversight of security operations, as well as coordinating emergency response activities and disaster planning for the facility.

“Lewis Gale takes the safety and security of our patients, visitors, and employees very seriously, and we are very fortunate to have someone with Ben’s experience and skills assume this responsibility,” said Michael Abbott, Chief Operating Officer at Lewis Gale Medical Center.

Vinton Town Council officially announced that Cook is leaving after a special closed session on October 7.

Mayor Brad Grose thanked Cook for his years of honorable service to the town and citizens of Vinton and for garnering respect for the Vinton Police Force throughout the Roanoke Valley.

Following the closed session, council met to set the parameters for appointment of the new chief to expedite the process. Council will meet on October 14 to interview and discuss applicants to serve as Interim Chief. Town Manager Chris Lawrence hopes that an interim can be announced at the October 20 council meeting, with a new chief in place by late January or early February.

Lawrence said that the position will be advertised aggressively throughout the state. The staff will initially narrow down the applicants who will then be interviewed by panels which include employees and citizens. A final panel which includes all members of town council will select the new chief. Interviews will be held in private as candidates may not wish for their current employers to know they are applying elsewhere.

In Cook’s years with the Vinton Police Department much has been accomplished, including updated in-car camera systems which upload video wirelessly when a police vehicle approaches the police department. The K-9 program was revived and used successfully for a time. All computers are up to date due to a grant obtained through the Asset Forfeiture program. There are upgraded Mobile Data Terminals in the police vehicles.

Patrol rifles and duty pistols have been upgraded. The links, Memex and TLO crime detecting software programs were implemented. New police vehicles were purchased to replace older vehicles.

Cook continued to emphasize accreditation and created a Professional Standards Sergeant position so that more attention could be placed on accreditation, hiring of new employees, and internal affairs investigations. During the most recent 2014 accreditation assessment the Vinton Police Department had zero file returns out of 190 standard files.

Community service involvement continued with Neighborhood Watch groups, National Night Out and other events, such as Fall Festival and the Dogwood Festival. The department has continued to participate in the Citizen’s and Advanced Citizen’s Police Academy each year.

High standards have been maintained in hiring new officers. All applicants go through an extensive background check that includes physical and psychological testing. The Department also requires officers to take a polygraph examination.

Vinton Police have participated in the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) group. The department has continued to seek grant funding for projects.

The Officer of the Month program has continued in order to show officers that their good work in not going unnoticed.

Cook says that he considers the major accomplishments during his time as Vinton Police Chief to be, first, “the strong relationship we have built with the community.”

“I get compliments about our officers interacting with citizens and it’s great,” said Cook.  “I have always focused on the department being a dedicated part of the community we serve.  The other is ensuring that our officers are safe and the resources available to them allow them to detect and investigate crime efficiently.  Our goal is to respond to calls for service quickly and have the necessary tools we need to serve the public as law enforcement professionals.”

Human Resources Director Donna Collins said that the requirements for those applying for the position as Vinton Chief of Police are:

  • Bachelor’s experience required, master degree’s preferred, from an accredited college or university with major course work in the field of law enforcement, public administration, or related areas, and extensive experience of a wide progressively responsible nature in police service.
  • Experience sufficient to thoroughly understand the diverse objectives and functions of the subunits in the division/department in order to direct and coordinate work within the division/department, usually interpreted to require three to five years of related experience.
  • Ability to meet current requirements set forth by the Department of Criminal Justice Services for the State of Virginia.

Chief Cook will be retiring rather than resigning from his position because he is moving from a public service organization to a private corporation, which has a different pension plan. He is vested with his current plan and able to retire with his years of service.

Cook said that he saw the job description for the Security Manager position at Lewis Gale, and “it fit what I had been doing over the course of my career. It’s a blend of law enforcement, fire, and EMS services. I struggled with the decision for several months but I’m excited about this opportunity.”

As for what he would tell the next Chief about the department he will inherit, “I would say that this is a great place to be.  The new Chief will be working with dedicated and professional law enforcement officers and staff, a supportive Town Council and Town staff, and citizens who are appreciative of the services that we provide.  The Chief will have the ability to do administrative work and also have time to get out into the community and get to know people on a personal level.”

Cook and his wife Lory plan to continue to live in Vinton with their 13 year old daughter. Cook also has an adult daughter and son, and two grandchildren.

 

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