The Virginia State Police has a new leader, and it’s 2002 Bluefield College graduate Colonel Gary T. Settle of Rappahannock County, Virginia, a 32-year veteran of law enforcement.
Settle assumed the position in February of 2018 after being appointed to the post by Virginia governor Ralph Northam, and while he’s grateful for the opportunity to lead’s Virginia’s state troopers, he admits it’s one he never envisioned.
“Law enforcement is a special calling and has been a career that has provided me with many unique experiences and rewarding interactions with people all across the Commonwealth,” said Settle. “I didn’t start out with the Virginia State Police thinking I would be the superintendent one day. My ambition 32 years ago was quite simple – to pursue a career where I could make a difference and help others.”
And that he has done. After graduating from the Virginia State Police Academy in 1986, Settle began his career as a trooper in the Culpeper Division where he had the opportunity to campaign and educate Virginians on the life-saving importance of the state’s new seatbelt laws. He served four years from 1996 to 2000 as sheriff of his native Rappahannock County before returning to the State Police as a sergeant with the Culpeper Division. There, in 2001, he led the Tactical Team to the Pentagon to assist with perimeter security during the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Later, as a lieutenant assigned to the Wytheville Field Office, Settle responded to Virginia Tech to assist with managing the State Police investigation into the mass shooting at Norris Hall on April 16, 2007. As a captain back in the Culpeper Field Office, he initiated town hall meetings to help residents in the Shenandoah Valley severely impacted by the rapid influx of heroin and opioid-related overdoses plaguing their communities.
“I have been very fortunate with the many career opportunities afforded me during my tenure with the Virginia State Police, which is what makes this department such a great place to work,” said Settle. “Being able to serve and protect our communities through traditional and community policing has been the true highlight of my career.”
As he progressed through the ranks, Settle served the State Police as a tactical team supervisor, narcotics and general investigations special agent, firearms instructor, and a member of the State Police Honor Guard. Prior to his appointment to superintendent, he was the deputy director and then director of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).
“Being selected for the position of superintendent is truly the most humbling honor in my 32 years in public safety,” said Settle. “Growing up in rural Rappahannock County, I was inspired by the integrity, dedication, and service to others demonstrated by the state troopers and local law enforcement officers in my community. During my tenure with the Virginia State Police and Rappahannock Sheriff’s Office, I have strived to live up to those very ideals that first motivated me to pursue a career in law enforcement. Now, as colonel, I am even more committed to maintaining those values in all that I do.”
In the midst of his rise to the top of the Virginia State Police, Settle decided to earn a college degree – something he believed would better qualify him for service in law enforcement. He chose Bluefield College and its accelerated, flexible adult degree-completion program.
“Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in administration of justice was a natural step for me as I progressed through my law enforcement career,” said Settle about the BC degree he earned in 2002. “I had been elected Sheriff of Rappahannock County and was seeking a way to enhance my proficiency as a law enforcement administrator. I had a decade of great, practical field experience, but wanted the additional insight into the facets of management, budgets, personnel, and strategic planning that a college degree could provide.”
When asked what he valued most about his BC experience, Settle said he remembers doing a lot of writing throughout his studies. He also spoke about the value of collaborating with professors and other law enforcement professionals.
“I appreciated the challenges that came with doing the research and being exposed to new ideas and theories related to criminal justice,” said Settle, who went on to earn a master’s degree in Homeland Security and Defense from the Naval Postgraduate School. “I also greatly benefited from the collaboration with other law enforcement professionals and students, as well as from the instructors of the various courses I took.”
Now as superintendent of the Virginia State Police, Settle will command a department of more than 2,000 authorized sworn workers and nearly 1,000 civilian personnel within the Office of Performance Management and Internal Controls (OPMIC), Office of Internal Affairs, Public Relations, Executive Protective Unit, Bureau of Administrative and Support Services (BASS), Bureau of Field Operations (BFO), and Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). He said he hopes to maintain the department’s proud traditions and esteemed reputation. He added that he’s also committed to advancing the agency and preparing its personnel, programs, policies, technologies, training, and equipment to meet the demands of an ever-changing society.
“We must continue to diversify our workforce so our members better reflect those we are sworn to serve and protect,” said Settle. “We must consider new and innovative ways to attract the most qualified sworn and civilian candidates to join the department in order to uphold our reputation of excellence and professionalism. I welcome 2018 with a continuing commitment to excellence and new enthusiasm for the challenges and achievements in store for me and the Virginia State Police in the weeks, months, and years to come.”