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City police chief named
Portsmouth commander to start in May
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Sean Dunn

Friday, March 21, 2014

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Sean Dunn, who was named Martinsville’s new police chief on Thursday, has high regards for the department that he will join in May.

“The Martinsville Police Department is a very professional department. It’s very well run. I have the highest respect for (retired) Chief Mike Rogers,” said Dunn, 42, who was selected from a pool of about 20 candidates to fill the position left vacant when Rogers retired in July.

Dunn added that he hopes he can do as well as Rogers did in the job.

A Portsmouth native, Dunn currently is commander with the Portsmouth Police Department.

The region, which includes Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Portsmouth, “is a minority-majority community,” Dunn said. Although larger than Martinsville — the population is just shy of 100,000 people in the roughly 30-square-mile area — “some of the dynamics of the city seem to be similar” to Martinsville, he said.

For instance, there is a mixture of depressed areas alongside more prosperous ones, and in the last 20 years of Dunn’s career there, he said Portsmouth has undergone a renaissance.

During his visits to Martinsville, Dunn said it was apparent to him that Martinsville is on the cusp of its own renaissance.

“Driving around town, it just feels like there is a lot going on. The New College is huge. That’s a very impressive effort,” he said. “As an outsider driving through, it just feels like there is a lot going on.”

Even with similarities, Dunn said he believes that “policing in the region here and in Martinsville will probably be a little different, and I probably have a lot to learn” during the transition.

“The last thing I am going to do” is to come in and begin making changes, he said. “I plan to do a lot of listening, meeting folks, hearing what the problems are” and familiarizing himself with the department and the community, he said.

Since Rogers’ retirement, Eddie Cassady has been the interim police chief, and “Eddie has done an outstanding job of keeping the department running smoothly throughout the process,” Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki.

Cassady, who also applied for the chief’s position, “I’m sure is disappointed. But knowing Eddie, he’s a true professional, and I know that Eddie is going to do whatever he can to help Sean get acclimated” to the area and situated in his new position, Towarnicki said.

Asked why the position was being filled by someone outside of the area, Towarnicki said, “We didn’t go into the process with the goal of going outside of the area. We went into the process with the goal of hiring who we felt was the best person for the position based on who we are and where we need to go down the road.”

Although there is “not anything wrong with where we’re going, after going through the interviews and talking to different candidates, Sean had some interesting ideas, a new perspective on a number of issues that we deal with locally, and that was something that I think that impressed everyone” on the two interview panels, Towarnicki said. One panel included local interviewers while the other was made up of members of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.

Cassady said he holds no animosity.

Dunn is “fortunate to have been selected to lead such a fine police department,” Cassady added.

“I congratulate him (Dunn). He’s coming to a good department, and I look forward to working with him,” Cassady said. “I have not met him yet, but I am looking forward to it. I want to help him with his transition and help to make it as smooth as possible.”

Dunn responded similarly.

“I’ve heard that there were probably some other (local) candidates, and to be perfectly honest, I’ve heard really nice things about everybody” who applied, Dunn said. “I’ve heard really, really nice things about the police department and culture in general, and I look forward to working with” Cassady and other employees.

“I hope they look forward to working with me,” Dunn said. “I’m easy to work with, an outgoing, gregarious guy.”

Dunn will be paid $85,720 per year to start, plus benefits, Towarnicki said.

Dunn began his law enforcement career as an officer in Portsmouth in 1993. He has served on numerous committees, task forces and other community and interdepartmental work groups, and has been responsible for developing and implementing the department’s annual budget.

His responsibilities include direction of the department’s city-wide operations including Uniform Patrol, Criminal Investigations, Crime Analysis, Community Policing and Crime Prevention.

He has a master’s degree in organizational leadership with an emphasis in public executive leadership from Regent University, and he is a graduate of the FBI National Academy’s 239th Session and the Police Executive Research Forum’s Senior Management Institute for Police. He also attended the Dale Carnegie Leadership Program and the Vann H. Lefcoe Leadership Program.

Dunn, and his wife, Stacy, plan to move to Martinsville. She is a teacher and also will seek work locally.

The Dunns have a son, 21, who plans to attend law school after graduating from East Carolina University this year, and a daughter, 17, who plans to attend Liberty University, Dunn said.

“Everything just seems to be coming together” for the move to Martinsville, he said. “I’m excited.”


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