Har­rison­burg’s chief of po­lice, ex-Spi­ders guard English knows law-en­force­ment tests

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - SPORTS - BY JOHN O’CON­NOR Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch

Eric English started as a se­nior guard and av­er­aged 12 points on the Univer­sity of Rich­mond’s 1989 NIT team. Ear­lier, he played on two Spi­ders NCAA tour­na­ment teams. While English was at UR, the Spi­ders went 23-7 (12-2 CAA), 15-14 (8-6 CAA), 26-7 (11-3 CAA), and 21-10 (13-1 CAA).

English then joined the Rich­mond Po­lice De­part­ment, with the long-range goal of FBI work. Af­ter about two months as a po­lice­man, English de­ter­mined that the FBI was no longer in his fu­ture. He had dis­cov­ered his ca­reer path.

“I just loved what I was do­ing,” said English, who came to UR from Me­bane, N.C., which is near Burling­ton.

For years, English worked as a Rich­mond pa­trol of­fi­cer in a cruiser, and as a bike of­fi­cer. He was as­signed nu­mer­ous cases in­volv­ing il­le­gal drugs. He in­ves­ti­gated prop­erty crimes. He served on the force’s in­struc­tional staff.

English, a crim­i­nal jus­tice ma­jor at UR who earned his mas­ter’s in pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion at VCU, el­e­vated to Rich­mond’s deputy chief in 2011, and in 2018 be­came the chief of po­lice in Har­rison­burg.

In th­ese try­ing times of so­cial un­rest and loud calls for po­lice re­form, English, who turns 53 in July, took time Tues­day to an­swer some ques­tions from The Times-Dis­patch about law en­force­ment and its front­lin­ers, po­lice of­fi­cers.

Ques­tion: How do you ap­proach the way things are right now?

An­swer: You’ve got to un­der­stand the his­tory of polic­ing. I don’t ever feel that the pub­lic is mad at me per­son­ally. I feel like they’re mad at the pro­fes­sion, which I un­der­stand.

As many peo­ple will tell you, there are a lot of men and women do­ing the very best they can, and do­ing a heck of a job, in polic­ing in their par­tic­u­lar ar­eas.

Ques­tion: Do you have a mes­sage that you gen­er­ally de­liver to Har­rison­burg res­i­dents, or to peo­ple dur­ing your time in Rich­mond, when things get a bit frac­tured be­tween the po­lice de­part­ment and cit­i­zens?

An­swer: I think the key is that your de­part­ment has to be open and trans­par­ent about what you are do­ing. I found that here in Har­rison­burg [re­cently], I’ve had sev­eral sit­u­a­tions where peo­ple have ei­ther emailed me or called me, and I had to go be­fore one of the peace­ful protests and an­swer ques­tions. Every­body has the con­cept that what­ever is hap­pen­ing across the coun­try is hap­pen­ing in your or­ga­ni­za­tion.

A lot of times, that is so far from the truth. We don’t all have the same poli­cies and pro­ce­dures. Polic­ing is dif­fer­ent in what­ever part of the coun­try you’re in. I do agree that there needs to be po­lice re­form, but what I just tell peo­ple is get to know what the de­part­ment is ac­tu­ally do­ing, rather than say­ing, “What’s hap­pen­ing in Min­neapo­lis hap­pens in Rich­mond, or hap­pens in Har­rison­burg.”

We all po­lice dif­fer­ently, and it all de­pends on who’s at the helm of that or­ga­ni­za­tion [as to] how that or­ga­ni­za­tion op­er­ates. Un­for­tu­nately for us, we get painted with that broad brush, and that has come to be ex­pected in the pro­fes­sion we’re in.

Ques­tion: You were a long­time high school bas­ket­ball of­fi­cial in the Rich­mond area. Is that ex­pe­ri­ence help­ful in po­lice work?

An­swer: The con­cepts are very sim­i­lar in that you’re try­ing to stay out of it as much as you can. While you’re try­ing to re­solve is­sues in law en­force­ment and of­fi­ci­at­ing, there are rules. Your job is to en­force the rules. Try to min­i­mize it as best you can and try to stay out of it, but still try to re­solve the is­sue.

I try to use those con­cepts and they work re­ally well in both pro­fes­sions. I do see the cor­re­la­tion there.


Eric English has been Har­rison­burg’s chief of po­lice since Septem­ber of 2018. As a se­nior guard, he av­er­aged 12 points on the Univer­sity of Rich­mond’s 1989 NIT team.


Guard Eric English played on two NCAA tour­na­ment teams and an NIT team while at the Univer­sity of Rich­mond from 1986 to 1989. He av­er­aged 4.9 points, 1.7 re­bounds and 1.6 as­sists in 115 games.


Eric English was a long­time of­fi­cial of high school bas­ket­ball games in the Rich­mond area.

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