Chief Roper reflects on the past, embraces the future

Chief Roper reflects on the past, embraces the future

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper, Jr. doesn't really have any trouble summing up his tenure as the head of the state's largest police department for the last 10 years.

"It's been one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, times of my life," he said during an interview Friday.

Born and raised in Birmingham and with a passion for law enforcement that came early in life, Roper admitted it was never his dream job to be chief of his hometown police department.

"I would say it wasn't on my wish list. But when the opportunity came, after thinking, talking and praying, I felt it was the right thing to do," he recalled.

As he prepares to step down, he has two things he's most proud of: being one of only six cities in the U.S. recognized by the Department of Justice as a model for community policing.

During a time when law enforcement has been in the spotlight, many times for the negative, he's also proud the department has fulfilled a motto he set forth from Day 1: To serve with ethics and integrity.

"I'm extremely proud of our people. Now that doesn't mean you don't have challenges regarding specific incidents. But as a department, we've done things extremely, extremely well," he said.

But as he reflected, there is one area where he wishes he could have done more.

"We did not move the needle as much as I wanted regarding the value of life in our city," he said.

He pointed to an example just the day before where one man killed his brother then took his own life.

"That's one thing that, even in the future, Birmingham has to work at. We really have to work at," he stressed.

Roper is leaving as a new mayor Randall Woodfin takes over.

There were some questions about Roper's decision to leave—and whether Woodfin wanted him out.

Roper didn't talk much about that, saying he felt from a faith and professional perspective it was time to pass the torch.

He doesn't leave bitter. In fact, he's just the opposite.

"Because the bottom line is--that's the succession of command," he explained. "When I talked to Chief Nunn and tried to build on what she had done to make the department better, then the next chief tries to build on what we've done and try to make it better. There's no competition there because we're all in public service."

One piece of advice he has for the department's new leader: "Lead by example because leadership is key and leadership is influence."

As for what he hopes for the future of the department, it's more technological enhancements with cameras, the department's ShotSpotter system.

"We'd like to marry that ShotSpotter system up with video cameras so when a shot is fired, a camera is activated. So, those types of things, we still have a lot to do," Roper said.

As for his own future, Roper stressed one specific thing: "I'm not using the word retire because that gives people the impression you're going somewhere to sit on the porch"

At 54, he said he still has lots of energy, still runs 20 miles a week and with every recruiting class.

"So, we're just going to take a vacation -- A good one. I think my wife deserves it," he said with a smile.

After that, he'll see what opportunities present themselves.

Along with a career in law enforcement, he's active in his church's ministry and serves as a major general in the U.S. Army Reserves.

"We won' t make any snap decisions. Through prayer, God always has a plan for us, He always has.  So, I'm not limiting or closing doors regarding the future. It has to be the right fit. So, we'll see what shakes out," Roper said.

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