GPD Chief Brian James announces May retirementBy Yasmine Regester, Peacemaker Staff Writer / April 21, 2022
In about 40 days, the City of Greensboro will say goodbye to current Greensboro Police Department Chief Brian James, as he announced his impending retirement this week. His last day will be May 31.
Chief James joined the Greensboro Police department in 1996 and was promoted to Police Chief in 2020. He has served in several key leadership roles within the police department, such as head of the Police Neighborhood Resource Center, Criminal Investigations Division, Training Division, Resource Management Division, and Bureau Commander of the Patrol Division. He previously served as a deputy police chief for five years under former GPD Chief Wayne Scott before he was promoted to Police Chief and spent his first two years in law enforcement at the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office.
In a press release, newly sworn–in Greensboro City Manager Taiwo Jaiyeoba said of James, “Prior to, and since my arrival as City Manager earlier this year, Chief James has been a phenomenal team member. In our regular communication, he demonstrates a unique passion for his job and genuine support for our police officers. His ideas and stellar leadership will be missed. Chief James developed an exceptional team of deputies, who are able to continue the vision he charted for the department.”
Additionally, Chief James has led numerous non-profit initiatives, such as chair of the United Way’s African American Leadership cabinet, board chair of Malachi House, member of Greensboro Rotary and vice chair of Guilford Child Development.
“I feel like we’ve done a lot of great things that are ongoing. I feel that we’ve had a lot of successes in the city and the department. There are still some ongoing challenges, but I feel good about what we’ve been able to accomplish in the last two plus years. I think the department is in a good place right now and I’m now ready to move on to the next phase of my life,” James said.
A native of Greensboro, James is a graduate of Page High School, and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from North Carolina A&T State University and an MBA from Pfeiffer University. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy, the Administrative Officer’s Management program at North Carolina State University and the Senior Management Institute for Police.
James said that he and his wife will be ‘empty-nesters’ soon so now is the right time for them to transition into the second act of their lives.
“It’s a challenging job. When you sign up for this job, your whole family signs up for this job,” he said. “As far as retirement plans, I would really like to take some time to relax and decompress.”
James assumed the role of police chief in February 2020, right as the city and the nation entered into the COVID-19 pandemic, and the community was simultaneously reacting to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of the police.
“Our community has benefited from the steadfast leadership of Chief Brian James and his departure will be an enormous loss to our city,” said Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan. “He led the department through challenges, such as the 2020 summer protests, a relentless pandemic and record number vacancies in law enforcement. On behalf of the City Council, we thank Chief James for his dedication and years of exemplary service.”
James led the department in restructuring and implementing policies that would help address police interaction with community members, such as banning chokeholds, the hog-tying technique and requiring officers on duty to report other officers not abiding by agency policies. The department also participates in implicit bias training, particularly for new recruits, which includes a tour of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in downtown Greensboro.
James noted that the protests of 2020 helped open doors to much needed conversations between the city and the community.
“We did have some policies that were of national concern that we needed to address to ensure people that we were training officers in the right way and trying to do everything we could to prevent horrific incidents from happening, such as the George Floyd incident,” said James.
In working with the community over the last two and a half years, James said that it is not just policing that needs to be addressed. Things like economic investment, opportunities for livable wages, adequate housing, and employment programs for the formerly incarcerated and the youth are also critical needs for underserved communities.
James called 2020 a “record setting year” for violent crime rates which increased to more than 60 percent at the time, according to GPD reports. The department’s weekly crime statistics report that homicide with guns are presently down 29 percent compared to this time in 2021.
“It’s much bigger than just the police department. What I’ve seen throughout my career is that when you have a neighborhood that is impoverished, that’s typically where you have the highest crime rates. It’s got to be a combined effort between law enforcement, the city and the community. As we address violent crime, we have to figure out a way to fix these communities as well,” said James.
The department has already launched the 2022 Chief’s Summer Youth Employment Initiative (CSYEI). In its initial launch last year, the department began with the goal of providing 500 summer jobs for youth in Greensboro and, as a result, 525 youth participated in the program. The CSYEI program is for youth ages 14 to 21, and the idea is to provide more than just a job, but also a structured learning employment training environment. The first summer job career fair for youth will be held Saturday, April 30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Windsor Community Center, 1601 Gate City Blvd.
“One thing that I have been really passionate about was the summer jobs program for the kids. I think it’s important for our kids, especially during the summer, to have something productive to do. It also puts some money in their pockets and teaches them skills that they can apply to everyday life,” said James. “I don’t see why every kid in this community can’t have the same opportunities that I had growing up.”
Under James’ leadership, the GPD has also begun work on a ‘real-time crime center,’ intended to help solve crimes in real time. Close municipalities like Winston-Salem and Forsyth County already use this system and once Greensboro is up and running, they will be able to assist each other a lot faster regarding crimes in progress. With consent, the police department would be able to tap into businesses and residential security cameras to gather real time information about crimes in progress, as well as create leads for detectives after a crime has occurred.
When it comes to who should be the next head of the department, James said, “What I hope is that whoever fills this role, has a genuine care for this city and the people who live and work here.”
The city of Greensboro has secured an executive recruiting firm to assist with the selection process for a new chief. Teresa Biffle has been selected to serve as Interim Police Chief while the search begins. Biffle, a 27-year veteran of the Greensboro Police Department, has served as the Deputy Chief of the Management Bureau since 2021, when she was promoted by Chief James.