ROANOKE COUNTY, VA (August 26, 2011) – Roanoke County Police Chief James R. “Ray” Lavinder today formally announced his retirement effective November 1, 2011. Chief Lavinder is well-known and respected for his professionalism, leadership, and dedication to the law enforcement profession. He is also one of the longest serving police chiefs in Virginia.
Chief Lavinder, 65, began his law enforcement career in 1972 when he was hired as an officer with the Arlington County, VA Police Department. In 1979, Lavinder left Arlington to begin what would become a long and distinguished career with Roanoke County. His first seven years with the County were spent as a Detective. In 1987, he was promoted to Lieutenant where he supervised the Detective Bureau. When the Roanoke County Police Department was formed in 1990, Lavinder was promoted to Captain of the Criminal Investigations Division. In June 1997, Lavinder was selected as Roanoke County Police Chief.
County Administrator Clay Goodman said Chief Lavinder’s pride in the staff is evident. The Department has 140 sworn officer and 13 civilian positions. “Under Chief Lavinder’s leadership, the Department has earned an outstanding reputation. Over the years, he has recruited and hired excellent people. He made training a priority and that emphasis is evident when you look at the Department’s success over the past 15 years.” Some of the Department’s accomplishments under Chief Lavinder include:
• Construction of a firearms range and driver training center near Dixie Caverns
• Established the Roanoke County Criminal Justice Academy, the first independent training academy in Virginia in nearly 30 years
• Earned and maintained national accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA)
• Created the school resource officer program in Roanoke County
• Developed one of the best Animal Control programs in the state. Animal Control Officers are certified police officers, which is unusual in law enforcement
• Put into place programs to better address cases involving the mentally ill; implemented the first Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program in Virginia
• Partnered with other local agencies to implement National Incident Management System (NIMS) guidelines
• Worked to improve the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system and related reporting programs
• Aided in the transition to a digital radio communications system
• Advocated for in-car cameras and computers for patrol cars
During the December 2010 search for 12-year-old Brittany Smith, the normally media-shy Lavinder became the public face of the investigation recognizing the importance of enlisting the media’s help to find the abducted child. After the girl was safely returned, Chief Lavinder received praise for his leadership during the crisis. George Austin, a captain with the Virginia State Police, has known Lavinder for nearly 30 years. “He’s a real leader and he certainly was in that case. He ran the show but gave the credit to everyone else. That’s Ray, he’s a Police Chief and also a gentleman. And while he’s real quiet, everyone respects Ray Lavinder. When he talks, people listen. He will be hard to replace.”
Chief Lavinder is active in the Virginia Association of Police Chiefs and served as President from 2007-2008. He has served on the Board of the Roanoke Valley Mental Health Association for eight years. For his work in this area, he was recognized by Governor Mark Warner and appointed to serve on a state-wide committee to study the transportation of mentally ill persons. He has served on the Board for Court Community Corrections for 14 years and was appointed to serve on the Board of the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services in 2006.
Chief Lavinder served one tour in Vietnam with the US Army. From 1966-67, he served with the 716 MP Battalion - one of the most decorated units in the Military Police Corps. He has a Bachelor or Science degree in Social Science from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Master of Science degree in Forensic Science from George Washington University. He is a graduate of the 155th session of the FBI National Academy.
The Chief and his wife have one grown son. They plan to continue to live in Roanoke County.
Assistant Chief Terrell Holbrook will become Acting Chief upon Lavinder’s retirement. It is uncertain how long the search will take until a permanent replacement is named.