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Council honors outgoing city police chief Rogers
Retiring Martinsville Police Chief Mike Rogers (center) receives the key to the city from members of the Martinsville City Council. Pictured with Rogers are (from left) council members Gene Teague, Sharon Brooks Hodge, Mayor Kim Adkins and Mark Stroud. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
Retiring Martinsville Police Chief Mike Rogers is highly regarded because he treats people with respect and teaches his officers to do the same.
That sentiment was expressed by many local officials and residents during a Martinsville City Council meeting on Tuesday when Rogers was recognized for his 33 years with the police department, including the past 14 as its chief.
Rogers, 54, will retire at the end of this month. The council presented him a ceremonial “key to the city” in recognition of his career, and he received two standing ovations from the full-house crowd at the council meeting.
He is “one of the most highly respected law enforcement officials across the state, and quite frankly, across the country,” said Mayor Kim Adkins.
Although she has been on the council for only seven months, Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge said she always has known Rogers to be respectful of people and insistent that his officers show respect.
“He does respect you,” said city resident Al Martin. “That makes him what he is.”
Martin said Rogers always has time to talk to whoever wants to talk to him. He indicated that Rogers treats people of all races with respect.
He said the next police chief should follow Rogers’ example.
“I’ve always been taught to treat people like you want to be treated,” Rogers said.
“You’re always very cool, always even-tempered,” even when the going gets tough, Councilman Mark Stroud, a retired master deputy with the city sheriff’s office, told Rogers. “I’ve been in awe of your service.”
Vice Mayor Gene Teague said that in dealing with issues affecting the police department, Rogers underwent a lot of stress at times but never complained.
Rogers’ father, retired Henry County Sheriff James Rogers, and his mother, Vera Rogers, were in the audience.
“You should be very proud of the son you raised,” Teague told the couple.
Rogers attributed strong discipline he received while growing up to helping him become a responsible adult and community leader.
City resident William Louis Eggleston, also known as the “string bean man,” said Rogers “cleaned up” a severe drug problem on the city’s west side.
In doing so, Eggleston said, Rogers made sure that people were “treated with respect and honesty.”
Martinsville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joan Ziglar credited Rogers for helping her learn much about her job as a prosecutor.
Ziglar said he has been not only a coworker with whom she worked closely, but also a friend who has been like a brother.
Rogers rose through the police department’s ranks after he was hired as a patrol officer in 1980.
He worked in criminal investigations and vice and narcotics before he was named sergeant of criminal investigations in 1992. Two years later, he was appointed sergeant of community policing and street crimes.
Rogers became assistant police chief in August 1999 and was promoted to chief two months later.
“It’s been an honor,” he said, to lead “one of the most professional law-enforcement agencies in the state.”
He noted that Martinsville now has the lowest crime rates it has had in the past 30-plus years. That is remarkable, he indicated, saying that due to high unemployment and other local economic problems, “you’d think they’d be going through the roof.”
Rogers acknowledged that aggressive enforcement of traffic laws by police has not been popular with a lot of motorists, but he said it is needed to keep streets safe.
He mentioned that he has been ticketed for speeding in the city.
“People know deep down in their hearts that you (and other police officers) are only doing your job,” Ziglar told him.
Rogers said the police department has good relations with other local public safety agencies and other area, state and federal law-enforcement agencies.
Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper said law-enforcement agencies statewide envy the police department’s relationship with the Virginia State Police.
Rogers recalled that each time the police department has been reaccredited, it has passed “with flying colors.”
He also mentioned that the police department recognizes more than 40 Neighborhood Watch groups in Martinsville. He said that is a lot more than many larger cities have.
Adkins said what is most important about Rogers’ tenure is that Martinsville residents feel safe as a result of measures taken by the current police force.
Rogers gave the credit for the police department’s successes to his staff. Comparing policing to a baseball game, he said “it’s the people in the field who win it, not the coach.”
The police department presented him with a framed, enlarged reproduction of a former patch that officers wore on their uniforms.
Rogers said he is pursuing other employment during his retirement, and he plans to announce next week what that job is. However, he said the job will not be in law enforcement.