Response to community forum

On June 27th, Chief Piper and Corporal Sales had the honor of speaking on behalf of the Winchester Police Department (WPD) and answering questions presented by the public, during a community forum held at Shenandoah University.  Organizers sent a list of questions to the WPD, found below, not covered during the forum.   We are grateful for the opportunity to respond.  Thank you to everyone who took the time to participate in person or through written and electronic correspondence.

  •  What are the qualifications to be a police officer and starting compensation?  From the website: . Applicants must have: a valid driver’s license, safe driving record, no criminal history; high school diploma or the equivalent, college preferred; be age 21 or older; excellent physical condition, be a non-smoker; accepts responsibility and have high ethical standards; live or be willing to move within a 50 mile radius of Winchester; be a U.S. citizen. Starting salary is $41,496.00.


  • With the emphasis on CIT training, why is it that black people still seem to be targeted more and more force is used on them?  The Winchester Police Department policies prohibit racial profiling and require de-escalation, when feasible, during encounters.  This is solidified in follow-up, in-house training.  Additionally, 65% of our sworn personnel have gone through the intensive 40-hour certification in crisis intervention.  All sworn officers are required to receive this training after one year of being released from field training.  A comprehensive use of force report will be posted to the WPD website in the upcoming months that will detail each use of force. 


  • Would you be willing to have a panel in the North End?  Chief Piper will be participating in a community forum at Virginia Avenue Charlotte DeHart Elementary School on July 25th.


  • How much training do police in Winchester go through and how much of that has to do with racial profiling? Is this the average time around the country?  The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services requires that officers undergo cultural diversity training every two years.  In addition, the Winchester Police Department is a State Accredited agency; therefore, we also adhere to additional training standards and policies in regard to racial profiling.  


  • I would like to hear about any proposed changes in law enforcement that would avoid deadly encounters.  The Winchester Police Department has thorough use of force policies that require de-escalation and duty to intervene.  In addition, there is an identified force continuum that is trained on at a minimum of once per year.  Officers have undergone scenario based training and table top exercises that include discussions of incidents occurring in other areas across the country. 


  • What goes through an officer’s mind when apprehending a suspect?  Officers must have the ability to multi-task and make decisions under stressful conditions.  They go through 19 weeks of training at a basic academy and 12 weeks of field training. During this time, they are exposed to incidents, both real and in role play, requiring sound decision-making skills.



  • What are some of the ways law enforcement and community organizations can collaborate to achieve greater unity in the community?  The Winchester Police Department is dedicated to community outreach to all of our city residents, young and old.  We strategically host and participate in events all over the City to ensure we are reaching everyone.  This would not be possible without many organizations that support us.  Some of our own events include the Academies: Junior, Teen, and Citizen, North End Summer Kickoff, Color with a Cop, National Night Out, Trunk or Treat, Coffee with a Cop, and our long-standing Kids and Cops Camp.  We participate in the Douglass Park Family Day, Community Safety Fair, and regularly attend resident led community meetings.  We have an active social media page, with over 35,000 followers.    


  • We must immediately begin negotiating specific steps. A giant cloud of goodwill alone does not make change. For example, can law enforcement provide specific statistics on how many calls could be answered by a mental health response team instead of sworn officers?   In 2019, our agency responded to 1,489 incidents of mental health.  Because of our dedication to serving those in crisis, these calls are time consuming and equate to 13% of our total man hours.  We have officers working proactively with the community services board and hospital to ensure we addressing the needs of our mental health community.    


  • Does the WPD ban chokeholds and hold officers responsible if they break the law? No knock warrants?  Chokeholds and accountability are currently addressed within our use of force policies which can be found here: . Regarding search warrants, every search warrant goes through a thorough screening process, which includes the use of a matrix, before being executed. The WPD will only serve a no knock warrant when it is authorized by the Commonwealth’s Attorney.  In 2018 and 2019, the WPD had no incidents of no knock warrants.    


  • Has there been funding for military style weapons?  The Winchester Police Department has no military style weapons. 



  • How quick after an "incident" are bodycams available to the public?  Have there been any instances of noncompliance with WPD bodycam policy?  What are the repercussions of noncompliance?  Our body worn policy can be found here:  Regarding availability to the public, each case is vetted independently and within the guidelines of the Freedom of Information Act before being released. 


  • Chief Piper, Has WPD given any thought to a program to develop and recruit "Winchester's Own" to become WPD officers?  Many members of the Winchester Police Department are from Winchester and its surrounding areas or have attended Shenandoah University.  We admittedly struggle to compete with starting salaries that are $10,000 - $12,000 higher in jurisdictions that are within a 30-60 mile radius.  However, we focus on marketing our strong community spirit and support to recruit quality applicants, both local and outside.


  • What mental health screening and background screening is done for new WPD recruits?  Our hiring process is thorough and consists of testing, interviews, polygraph, psychological exam, physical and a complete background investigation.  Please visit our website to learn more: .  However, making sure our officers continue to maintain a good psychological mind is a priority.  The WPD has a peer-to-peer team and a certified counselor on its staff.