City to launch national search for new police leader as Chief Warner departs

After Harrisonburg Police Chief Kelley Warner announced Thursday evening she was leaving that role in June, city officials began planning to conduct a national search for her replacement.  

Warner will leave Harrisonburg in mid-June to return to her hometown of Solebury Township, Pennsylvania, to serve as its police chief.

“It’s been my honor to serve this community,” Warner said, adding that people in Harrisonburg welcomed her from the beginning. “I hope that they will continue to support the next chief, whoever that is, as we continue to serve the community.”

Warner’s tenure as chief began in 2021 when she moved from Pennsylvania for the position. 

She said she’s most proud of the police department reestablishing the field training program for new and incoming police officers, growing professional development opportunities across the department, establishing a victim liaison unit and emphasizing the necessity of supporting each officer to push them toward success. All of those initiatives, she said, were team efforts that she “just directed.”

The Victim Services Unit launched a year ago so that a police department employee would follow up with anyone against whom a crime was committed — whether that person was the victim of identity theft, pickpocketing, or a traumatic crime. The idea  was modeled after a similar program at Warner’s previous department in Abington Township, Pennsylvania. 

Beyond those efforts during her nearly three years as chief, Warner took the most pride in the quality of Harrisonburg’s police officers.

“It was great because, again, [HPD has a] very talented group of individuals, dedicated people, who are doing good stuff,” she said. “They’re easy to love and to care about because they’re dedicated and they want to do the job.”

Mike Parks, the city’s director of communications, said city leaders will begin a national search to find a new police chief.

“We don’t have a timeline on when that will take place, likely over the next couple months,” he said, “but we know we have a great leadership team right now at HPD which will allow us to take our time in making this decision.”

City leaders hope to cast a “wide net” to bring in numerous applicants with different successes and challenges they’ve faced, Parks said. From this pool, Parks said city leaders will select the best candidate to lead the police department in continuing the police department’s good work.

“Obviously, we miss having Chief Warner’s voice in these conversations,” Parks said. “But she has set the department up in a great position to succeed before she steps away. So we’re certainly confident that we’ll be able to move forward with no issues.”

Kelley Warner addresses the media in her introductory press conference on May 28, 2021. (File photo)

Although Parks said he’s not sure there will be a police chief hired by the time Warner leaves for Pennsylvania, Warner said the plan in place is for the deputy chiefs to “maintain the helm” until a successor is hired.

“We thank Chief Warner for her service, and we’re glad that we still have a couple weeks to work with her,” Parks said. “She’s been a leader … not just within the police department.”

Thanks for reading  The Citizen, which won the Virginia Press Association’s 2022 News Sweepstakes award as the top online news site in Virginia. We’re independent. We’re local. We pay our contributors, and the money you give goes directly to the reporting. No overhead. No printing costs. Just facts, stories and context. We value your support.

Scroll to the top of the page

Hosting & Maintenance by eSaner

Thanks for reading The Citizen!

We’re glad you’re enjoying The Citizen, winner of the 2022 VPA News Sweepstakes award as the best online news site in Virginia! We work hard to publish three news stories every week, and depend heavily on reader support to do that.