Growing up in Hampton with F-15s constantly overhead, Greg Riley always wanted to be a fighter pilot. Instead, as life twisted and turned, he became the voice of a police department.
Riley has served the Williamsburg Police Department for 28 years, he said. As a beat cop for more than a decade, Riley earned the rank of major and became one of a handful of administrators in the department in about 2010.
Riley will retire effective Jan. 1, 2019, and in his place two new public information officers will take over after training, Riley said.
When he joined it in 1990, both the department and Williamsburg were smaller places, Riley said.
“Williamsburg is a small department, so as an officer you pretty much have to be a jack of all trades,” Riley said. That was one of the reasons he stayed for so long, he said. He could work traffic accidents and the rare homicide case.
Riley took his skills and became an early mentor to officers like Don Janderup who now serves alongside Riley as one of the administrative majors in the department.
In Janderup’s first week on patrol, Janderup said, Riley showed him how to defuse a volatile domestic incident between an elderly mother and her adult son by showing the pair patience.
Riley helped the two communicate their issues and resolve the conflict, Janderup said.
“Not only was he good with them but he was kind afterward showing me what his process was,” Janderup said. “You remember certain calls even 18 years ago and that’s one that stuck with me.”
When Riley first started his career in Williamsburg, the community was closer-knit.
Both the city and the region have grown and as they’ve grown the policing methods have changed, too.
As part of his initial kit, Riley was given a nightstick, a radio and a gun.
The policing mentality at the time was called “Broken Windows” where if officers went out in the community and kept disorder to a minimum, society at large would prosper.
Beat cops work to foster relationships with the people in the neighborhoods where they work. They get to know people. That’s what Riley loved as a patrolman.
Riley worked as a beat cop in cases ranging from traffic accidents to homicides throughout the years, but his final role at the department came as the voice of its officers.
For the last six years, Riley has provided information to the public as a spokesman for the department.
From the Colonial Williamsburg bombing to the Bristol Commons helicopter crash, Riley gave every little bit of information he could when he could.
Police Chief Sean Dunn praised Riley for his work throughout the department.
“When I got here and had a firm handle on the criminal investigations unit and the job his investigators did,” Dunn said. “It was at that time when I learned of his talent and skill as an investigator.”
“He’s one of the masters of the field. He is going to be sorely missed and he is a true gentleman.”
When Riley retires, he’s not looking forward to a whole lot of fishing. Instead, he said he’s looking for a second act.
Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.