BC Degree Completion Student John Venuti Named Police Chief for Virginia Commonwealth University
Article by Reed Williams, Richmond Times-Dispatch Bluefield College degree completion student and Richmond (VA) police major John Venuti, a highly visible investigator of violent crimes with a reputation for hard work and compassion, has been named chief of police for Virginia Commonwealth University.
January 18, 2010
Venuti, a student in the Management-43 group of BC's degree completion in Richmond who joined the Richmond Police Department in 1984, has overseen city homicide investigations for more than six years, first as a lieutenant, and later rising to his current rank. He starts his new job February 1.
Venuti, 48, said he plans to enhance the relationship between the VCU and Richmond police departments and take his same work style to his new position.
"I have had a wonderful career with Richmond, I have had the opportunity to work with an amazing group of people, and I've just had a tremendous amount of support behind me every step of the way," he said yesterday. "I guess the best part is I'm only going to be about two blocks away."
Richmond Police Chief Bryan T. Norwood released the following statement: "We congratulate John on this career achievement, but we will definitely miss his law-enforcement knowledge and experience in investigations. His will be big shoes to fill in this department."
Some law-enforcement officials noted that Venuti oversaw consecutive annual declines in the number of homicides reported by police from 2004 until 2008, when the number hit a decades-low total of 32. Last year, the city recorded 39 homicides, which still was a low number in historic context.
"Venuti was a major factor in the reduction of the murder rate that has plagued the city of Richmond for many years, and I am positive that he will turn the VCU Police Department into a first-rate organization," said Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Learned Barry, who prosecutes city homicides.
"VCU is right in the heart of the city, and now they have a real police chief."
Venuti, 48, replaces former VCU chief Willie Fuller, who was arrested Jan. 28 on charges that he sexually solicited a Chesterfield County detective posing as a 14-year-old girl online.
Prosecutors withdrew the charges in September after learning that Fuller suffered a brain injury and has dementia stemming from a diabetes-related seizure he experienced in June.
Venuti currently heads the city's support services section, which includes the major crimes, forensics, arson and fugitive units, along with sexual assault teams and hostage negotiators. In that role, he supervises more than 175 sworn and civilian employees and manages a $15 million budget.
At VCU, he will supervise one of the largest university po lice departments in the nation, with 82 sworn officers, more than 200 security personnel and a training academy.
Citizens Against Crime founder Alicia Rasin, who has worked closely with Venuti for several years, said city residents like and respect Venuti.
"He's going to go out there in the tough communities -- it could be the worst time, but he's going to let them know that he cares about them, and he's not going to tolerate the ignorance," Rasin said.
Venuti's appointment comes after a national search that attracted more than 170 applicants.
"VCU's Police Department effectively serves a large, diverse and open environment," said John Bennett, VCU's senior vice president for finance and administration.
"Chief Venuti's experience will allow him to build the department's effectiveness in serving and protecting the students, faculty and staff at our university.
Venuti is scheduled to receive his bachelor's degree in management and leadership from Bluefield College this spring.