Scott Booth, who has been credited with the drastic reduction in Danville’s crime rate since he arrived in 2018, has accepted a position as police chief for the city of Roanoke. His last day in Danville will be Oct. 31.
Roanoke announced last month that Booth was a finalist for the position.
Booth has more than 27 years of law enforcement experience, including about two decades with the Richmond Police Department. He also served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army.
During his time in Danville, Booth helped implement a community police model to reduce crime and gang violence. The city has seen a 52% average annual reduction in violent crime since the policing model was implemented, according to data from the police department.
“Over the last five years, we have worked together as a city to meet several goals, including reducing violent crime and establishing community-based policing, which has become the Danville model,” Booth said in a news release.
Danville had the highest per-capita violent crime rate in the state in 2017, which was reduced to a 35-year low in all crime in 2020, according to a Thursday news release from the city of Roanoke.
His experience lowering crime will be useful in Roanoke, a city that has been grappling with gun violence. The Roanoke Times reported that Roanoke has seen at least 21 homicides so far this year, compared to 19 in all of 2022. At the end of August, the newspaper reported that the city had seen 28 nonfatal shootings so far in 2023.
Roanoke City Manager Bob Cowell said in the news release that residents and business owners in the city wanted a police chief with a reputation for community engagement, leadership and crime reduction.
“There is no doubt that Chief Booth has the demonstrated ability to lead our City Police Department — building on a foundation already established, with a continued emphasis on prevention, intervention, and enforcement,” Cowell said in the release. “Chief Booth’s leadership of our officers and our community will ensure Roanoke remains a safe place for residents, businesses, and visitors.”
Roanoke’s previous chief, Sam Roman, started a new job as an assistant city manager in July. He had served as chief for about three years.
In Danville, Booth also worked to repair the relationship between the community and its police department, which was damaged 60 years ago during the city’s civil rights movement.
Extreme police brutality during the movement began on June 10, 1963, a day known as “Bloody Monday.” This created a rift between city residents and the department, Booth said in an interview with Cardinal News in February.
“That was a community trauma,” Booth said. “I’ve worked in larger cities, and I never could remember one incident really having a hold on a city like Bloody Monday did in Danville.”
In an effort to repair this rift, Booth offered an apology to the community on behalf of the police department for the events of 1963. This was the first time that the civil rights demonstrators, some of whom still live in Danville, ever heard an apology from the police.
“I think for the community, it did speak that we’re willing to take steps in the right direction,” Booth said.
Booth has received multiple awards during his tenure in Danville, including the Excellence in Police Award from Radford University’s Center for Police Practice, Policy and Research in 2020.
Most recently, he received national recognition: the Frederic Milton Thrasher Award from the National Gang and Crime Research Center.
“The award recognizes Booth’s accomplishments for superior leadership, specifically as it relates to reducing gang-related crime in the community,” according to a news release about the award.
“While I am disappointed that Chief Booth will be leaving us, I am incredibly thankful for what he and his team have accomplished under his leadership,” Danville City Manager Ken Larking said in the city’s news release. “Scott and the department have built a winning system here in Danville.”
Danville’s public information officer said Thursday that he doesn’t have any information yet on the city’s plans to look for a new police chief.