Police Chief

City of Harrisonburg, VA | Full-time


The Position

The City of Harrisonburg’s next Police Chief will lead a VLEPSC-accredited department with a stellar record and strong community and interfaith relationships in an energetic college town within the central Shenandoah Valley. Harrisonburg, known far and wide as “The Friendly City” due to the caring reputation of its staff and residents, enjoys the presence of two universities, lively neighborhoods, an arts and cultural district, culinary district, and spectacular outdoor recreation spots nearby. The City has a history of an effective government that is fiscally sound, has stability in its leadership, interacts with an engaged citizenry, and provides exceptional services.

The Police Chief reports directly to the City Manager and works closely with the Deputy City Manager and all department directors. In the current structure, the Police Chief’s direct reports are a deputy chief, three captains, a professional standards/internal affairs sergeant, senior program support specialist, administrative assistant, and two chaplains. The position is open following two years of service from the previous Police Chief.

The Organization

The City of Harrisonburg operates under the council-manager form of government. Residents of Harrisonburg elect a five-member Council to direct the goals and policies of the City. The five members have four-year, staggered terms. The Mayor and Vice Mayor are chosen by the Council and serve in their roles for two years. The Council appoints the City Manager, who oversees the delivery of public services. The Voter Registrar, Commissioner of the Revenue, and Treasurer provide services to City residents and supervise City employees but are elected or appointed to their positions and do not report to the City Manager.

The City of Harrisonburg manages a workforce of more than 800 full- and part-time employees and has an adopted FY 2021 Total All Funds Budget of $269.8 Million. There are 12 departments within the City, including Planning and Community Development, Economic Development, Finance, Fire, Emergency Communications Center, Human Resources, Information Technology, Parks and Recreation, Police, Public Transportation, Public Utilities, and Public Works.

The Police Department

The Harrisonburg Police Department (HPD) is comprised of 112 sworn police officers and 23 full-time civilian support personnel, who provide 24-hour emergency and non-emergency services to a diverse population. There are 23 auxiliary officers (volunteers), of which 14 are sworn, and nine are administrative.

The command staff includes a deputy chief, three captains who oversee the Patrol, Special Operations, and Administrative Bureaus, and five lieutenants. There are 17 sergeants and one civilian supervisor. The four squads within the Patrol Division work 12-hour fixed shifts during the day and night. Since 2019, HPD has offered a peer support program, with the goal of providing overall emotional and mental wellness support to Department personnel.

The Department has an approved FY 2021 budget of approximately $12.5 Million. There are currently eight officer vacancies. HPD works closely with the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office, Public Safety personnel at James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University, and the Harrisonburg-Rockingham County Emergency Communications Center. The City is a partner in the Rockingham County Jail and Middle River Regional Jail.

As a means of developing community involvement and partnerships, the Department utilizes the geographic policing concept, also called the Police Service Model. The Department is divided into seven geographic districts, with officers and supervisors assigned to each district.

HPD was recently accredited by the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission and strives to uphold the highest standards of professionalism with a key focus on community policing. In the past year, the Department has taken great strides toward transparency, restorative justice, and community involvement. That has included providing updated data on the use of force and arrests for all residents to review and creating an advisory committee for residents and other stakeholders to join. The Department’s Community Police Academy and frequent Community Walks are just some of the many ways HPD seeks to remain greatly engaged with the community it serves.

Experience and Education

Minimum requirements include ten (10) years of experience as a police officer, including at least five (5) years of experience in supervision and management in a command rank or higher, and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, police administration, psychology, or related field OR equivalent years of command-level experience.

Preferred qualifications include a master’s degree, specialized training such as the FBI National Academy, CLEE (Certified Law Enforcement Executive), or the Administrative Officers Course at the Southern Police Institute of the University of Louisville, and experience in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Other preferred qualifications include a demonstrated commitment to the community, change leadership, extensive knowledge of community-oriented policing techniques, experience working in a college town and a multi-racial and multi-cultural community, and the ability to attract and retain a well-qualified and diverse workforce. The successful applicant must pass a background investigation, credit check, DMV review, and the City-mandated drug and alcohol testing. The position requires possession of a driver’s license valid in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Applicants must possess a Department of Criminal Justice Services law enforcement certification within 12 months of hire or be granted a waiver.

The Ideal Candidate

The ideal candidate will be a progressive police professional, who is community-oriented, engages with employees at all levels, and has had demonstrated success in change leadership. The next Police Chief will demonstrate the highest level of personal and professional integrity, can lead the Department in a culturally rich and diverse community, and work effectively to continuously improve police operations, public safety, and department morale.

The next Chief will take the work seriously and have a sense of humor and humility. The candidate will be open and approachable, a clear communicator, and visible in the community and the Department at all levels. The ideal Police Chief will be a strong leader who will be firm, fair, and hold themselves, command staff, and all officers and staff to the highest levels of service and integrity.

This person will support the Department and its employees, have high energy and a passion for the work, and be committed to achieving results, yet flexible and realistic to motivate others to achieve positive change. He or she will be skilled at utilizing best practices, including community-oriented policing, de-escalation, and other techniques to work with those who have a mental illness while maintaining a safe environment for police officers and community members.

The ideal candidate will earn the respect of his or her officers, command staff, elected officials, City management, members of the public, and colleagues in the law enforcement community. He or she will be skilled in all areas of police operations, having served as both a patrol officer and a leader, and will take a balanced approach to staffing the different components of a law enforcement agency – patrol, investigations, specialty teams, and civilian and volunteer support.

The next Police Chief will inspire both sworn and civilian personnel by establishing a clear vision and engaging police personnel in developing both short and long-term goals for the Department that fall in line with citywide goals. The ideal candidate will combine community policing, effective use of technology, and alternative dispute resolution techniques and partner with interfaith and community leaders and other law enforcement organizations to provide the best services for residents and visitors to the City. He or she will bring innovative approaches to pedestrian safety, traffic, and other quality of life issues impacting public safety.

The next Police Chief will work to improve recruitment and retention of officers, ensure the Department provides growth and development for officers, and continue a tradition of strong community partnerships at all levels of the organization. This individual will be fully invested in the City of Harrisonburg, the Department, and the community.

The Community

The City of Harrisonburg is an independent city located in the central Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia. The City falls within Rockingham County and encompasses 17.3 square miles, serving a population of approximately 54,000. Harrisonburg is located along Interstate 81 and is only two hours away from both Richmond and Washington, D.C.

Harrisonburg City Council and staff are currently operating under the City’s 2039 Vision Plan, which calls for a focus on Available Housing for All; A Thriving Educational Epicenter; Fiscal Sustainability and Planning; A City for All; Distinctive, Reliable Delivery of High-Quality City Services; and Economic Development: Goals, Gains and Growth. Additionally, City staff strive to embody these five Values: Progressive Innovation, Productive Communication, Trusted Service, Winning Teamwork, and Valued Employees.

Once an agricultural hub, Harrisonburg has now evolved into a lively and distinct destination with a vibrant arts and entertainment scene. The City is home to a plethora of parks and trails and hosts community events throughout the year.

Downtown Harrisonburg was designated as Virginia’s first recognized Arts and Cultural District in 2001 and the first recognized Culinary District in 2014. Downtown boasts a variety of locally-owned restaurants, coffee shops, bars, craft breweries, and boutiques. The area is home to an expansive network of galleries, music venues, theaters, and museums, making it an exciting place for anyone to enjoy.

Harrisonburg is a melting pot of ethnic diversity. In recent years, more than 1,900 refugees have settled into the City. Harrisonburg City Public Schools students speak more than 60 different languages, with English, Spanish, Arabic, and Kurdish being the most common.

Within the Harrisonburg City Public Schools system is a Pre-K Early Learning Center, six elementary schools, two middle schools, and a high school. A second high school will be built within the next few years. Harrisonburg is also home to two university campuses – James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University. James Madison is a public research university with an enrollment of more than 22,000 students, and Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) is a private, Mennonite-affiliated liberal arts university with an enrollment of approximately 1,500 students.

Harrisonburg has been a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly Community since 2011 and is dedicated to adding bicycle and pedestrian facilities throughout the community, making it attractive to walkers, runners, and cyclists alike. Miles of trails and sidewalks make it a walkable and bike-friendly community.

Quick Facts

  • Population: 54,049
  • Median Household Income: $43,893
  • Median Home Value: $197,400
  • Median Age: 24.8

All demographic information was sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau.


The expected hiring range is $115,000 - $125,000 with an excellent benefits package.

How to Apply

Applications will be accepted electronically by The Novak Consulting Group. Applicants complete a brief online form and are prompted to provide a cover letter and resume. Open until filled with the first review of applications on March 26, 2021.


Please direct questions to Catherine Tuck Parrish at apply@thenovakconsultinggroup.com or 513-221-0500.

Download Recruitment Brochure