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Roanoke police chief offers 'sincere apology' for remarks on rape

Roanoke police chief offers 'sincere apology' for remarks on rape

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Roanoke Police Chief Tim Jones offered Tuesday his “sincere apology” for his remarks at a city council meeting last month that some interpreted as blaming victims of rape.

“I was attempting to convey information gained from our investigations as to how citizens might best protect themselves,” Jones said in a 10-sentence statement released late Tuesday by a police spokeswoman. “I believe it is now clear that I failed to convey this information to the public in a manner that was sensitive to victims of rape and sexual assault. For this, I offer my sincere apology.”

Jones continued, “My hope is that we can collectively focus our efforts toward empowering all people within our community to keep themselves safe. The offenses of rape and sexual assault are offender based and should never happen to women in our society. My response to council concerning the increased instances of rape were not intended to hurt or lay blame towards any victim.”

Jones had faced opposition in recent weeks — including a protest and calls for his resignation — after his Feb. 19 remarks to council members during an annual public safety briefing.

When responding to council members’ questions about an increase in reported rapes between 2017 and 2018, Jones said he didn’t mention the figures because, “I did not want to have fear in the community that we had a rapist at large, but we just got to be very, very conscious of, socially, of where we go, who we engage in, and what we do when we’re with them.”

He continued, “From what I have seen and have been told through our investigators, all too many young women put themselves at risk when alcohol and social behavior goes bad, and that’s what we are seeing the greatest in our investigations.”

Councilwoman Trish White-Boyd, who first questioned Jones about the statistics, said Saturday that the chief didn’t use good word choice.

“He blamed the victims, and we should never blame the victims,” she said then. White-Boyd said late Tuesday that she had not seen Jones’ statement and so couldn’t comment on it.

“I appreciate the chief taking the time to reflect thoughtfully on what was said then, and offering the apology today,” Vice Mayor Joe Cobb said on Tuesday.

“The most important thing is the chief’s recognition of how what he said was understood differently by others, and I appreciate that he’s taken responsibility for that in terms of setting the record straight in what he was trying to say.”

Several other council members and City Manager Bob Cowell didn’t respond to messages late Tuesday. The police chief reports to Cowell, who said Monday that, “Right now it’s really about listening to folks” in order to “see where we are.”

During Monday’s regular council meeting, six women spoke during the public comment phase to express their dissatisfaction with Jones and his comments, a video of which circulated on social media.

“What bothered me the most and that I just continue to think about was ... how many little girls are watching this, or their parents are watching it or their loved ones, and they’re going to be less likely to report because they’re going to see the police chief blaming them for that?” Madalyn Sullivan told the council.

In his statement, Jones said, “the collective body of police officers here at the Roanoke Police Department are committed to putting the best interest of this City and the safety of its citizens first, as we continue to serve and protect all within our City.”

It echoed a sentiment expressed Monday, when a speaker presented a group member’s concerns that Jones didn’t have her “best interest in mind.”

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