Timothy J. Longo, the police chief in Charlottesville, announced on Monday his plans to retire, ending his 15-year stewardship of the department in the spring.
Longo began his law enforcement career in Baltimore and became chief of police in Charlottesville in 2001, running the department that encompasses the University of Virginia’s flagship campus. Longo led the department through a series of high-profile investigations, including into the murder of U-Va. student Yeardley Love in 2010.
Last year, Longo became the face of a nationwide manhunt seeking the suspect in the disappearance and death of U-Va. sophomore Hannah Graham. The alleged assailant, Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 33, was arrested on a beach near Galveston, Tex., and faces the possibility of a death sentence if he is convicted. Matthew has also been charged in the abduction and death of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, who went missing in 2009 during a concert in Charlottesville.
Longo said Monday that he will retire on May 1.
“I am extremely proud of this department,” Longo said in a statement. “They are not only a fine team of professionals, but they are good people. They conduct themselves admirably in both the international spotlight and in day-to-day interactions with the community. I look forward to seeing this group of men and women continue to grow and excel.”
Longo became a police officer in 1981, walking a beat in his native Baltimore, where he was known for building rapport with residents. In his 19 years in Baltimore, Longo rose to the rank of colonel and led the department’s technical services division. He also reportedly helped Baltimore roll out the first three-digit non-emergency phone number — 311 — which became a standard practice in departments nationwide.
He received a bachelor’s degree from Towson State University in 1985 and a law degree from the University of Baltimore in 1993.
In Charlottesville, Longo became a revered figure among residents, who knew him to become emotional while discussing particularly tragic cases. With the cameras rolling last fall, Longo notably wiped away tears as he discussed the Graham case with reporters.
In a recent interview with the C-ville Weekly publication, Longo acknowledged missteps earlier in his tenure in Charlottesville surrounding a “DNA Dragnet,” as the force sought a serial rapist targeting women in the area. Charlottesville police officers swabbed 187 black men for DNA in 2004 before Longo halted the program amid concerns from civil rights groups and members of Charlottesville’s black community.
Longo has said that he accepted the position in Charlottesville, a quaint city of 44,000 in the Blue Ridge Mountains, believing that he would escape the national spotlight. But Longo instead has led the department through investigations that attracted worldwide interest, including the Love and Graham cases and a recent inquiry into claims of a gang rape that appeared in Rolling Stone magazine; police in that case played a role in debunking the allegations before Rolling Stone issued a retraction.
“Chief Longo’s vision and leadership will be profoundly missed,” City Manager Maurice Jones said in a statement. “The chief and his staff have built an exceptional department dedicated to protecting our residents, businesses and visitors. He has skillfully led our police department through very difficult times and has always been an excellent ambassador for our City. His brand of relational policing will be an important part of his legacy.”