Adjust text size

After 30 Years, Radford’s Top Cop Calling it Quits

September 12, 2007 | Virginia News

RADFORD – After more than three decades in law enforcement, Radford Department of Police Chief Gary Harmon will be leaving his post at the end of the year.

Harmon, 56, has served as Radford’s top cop since 2004 and first began work with the city’s police department in September of 1976. Over the past 30 years, Harmon said Tuesday, it has been “an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Radford,” and it is not a job he walks away from easily, but said he feels it’s just the right time to retire. “It feels like a good time,” he said. “I’m young enough to pursue other interests and in relatively good health and there’s more out there I want to do.” Fishing will definitely be high on the list of pastimes for Harmon, who says he enjoys fishing for “anything that swims.” He has fished near the Arctic Ocean and makes a yearly trek to Canada for fishing. He also hopes to continue to serve the city by being appointed to boards and commissions, and has not ruled out finding himself employed again some time down the line. One thing he knows is that he will miss being the chief of police, although he won’t miss the paperwork involved with his job. “I’ll really miss the people I work with, both in the department and the city administrators,” Harmon said. “I’ve enjoyed working with [Radford City Manager] Tony Cox, [Assistant City Manager] David Ridpath, [Human Resources Director] Zack Kyle, and with City Council. They have offered us a lot of support and I am really appreciative of that.” Sgt. Ken Ford of the RDP said Tuesday the boss will be missed. “He’s going to be dearly missed,” Ford said. “He’s done a tremendous job and has led the department in the right direction.” Harmon took over the department in a tumultuous time; something he says took a lot of energy and produced some stressful moments along the way. The former police chief, Wes Terry, had been fired, a group of officers had filed suit against the City over pay grievances and officer turnover was high. Harmon said one of the reason he is opting for retirement now is that he feels the department has overcome those difficulties. difficulties. “When I first came on, I wanted to right the ship and overcome some of the hard times we’ve gone through,” he said. “I think we’ve done that. This department has come a long way and we’ve got some really good people working for this department.” Radford City Manager Tony Cox said Tuesday Harmon’s shoes will be hard to fill, but he will embark on that task soon, with the hope of naming a successor before Harmon’s last day at the end of December. “Gary is a true professional, but we expect that from a chief in Radford,” said Cox. “The most outstanding thing about Chief Harmon is his sense of community. Gary truly cares about each and every resident in the City and it shows in his work and that of the department. We work hard to reach out to every segment of the community to be better able to address their concerns. His leadership has helped build a deep respect for the Police Department.” Cox said Harmon has led the department in advancements in training, equipment and professionalism. “Under Chief Harmon we have made significant strides in training and equipping out department to meet the demands they face in Radford,” Cox added. “From in-car cameras to major incident response, our department is better able to face challenges than we were when he took the job. We have an outstanding training program that allows us to handle major accidents and crime scenes in a truly professional manner. Our department is fully accredited and is close to accreditation in crime prevention as well. These efforts are evident when you look at the results the department has produced.” Cox added Harmon offers a “calm maturity” to leading the department that has not gone unnoticed. “Gary’s commitment to serve the public is evident,” Cox said. “Complaints about our officers are rare and valid complaints are nearly nonexistent. By stressing a calm maturity in responding to issues, the Department enjoys a very high community satisfaction level. Gary has lead by example in this area and the results reflect well on the Department and the City.” Harmon said his hopes for the future of the RPD are to see a new building for the police department, whose current headquarters are more than 100 years old, and he also wants to continue to see the department flourish under new leadership. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Radford University, two associates degrees from New River Community College, and a master’s in criminal justice from RU. He is also the graduate of the FBI National Academy and has been named Police Officer of the Year by the City in addition to other accolades throughout his career. Courtesy: Heather Bell, Radford News Journal