City Cop retires after 39 years

City Cop retires after 39 years


Charlottesville Police Officer Ron Webster is retiring after an almost 40-year career that’s taken him from patrolling the Corner to a foot beat on Main Street’s “new” Downtown Mall. And, in his time on the forensic unit, he’s seen technology go from old-fashioned suspect sleuthing to fingerprinting and DNA matching.
The Central Virginia native started his police career with the Charlottesville PD in the late 1960s, covering a night beat along Preston Avenue back in the day when it was only two lanes.
Since then, Webster says, crime in the city hasn’t changed much, it’s just reported more. Decades ago, “on neighborhood disputes, people wouldn’t call you.” He adds, “It was possible to do an eight-hour tour with no reports.” He notes that drug traffic has stepped up, with harder drugs like crack cocaine replacing the occasional marijuana or amphetamine call.
In 1973, Webster attended a forensic academy in Richmond and began working on Charlottesville’s forensic unit. In the 33 years since, he has seen the inception of the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) and DNA-matching of felons. Before such technology, Webster says, “we were lucky if we went to a crime scene and could collect enough to do ABO blood typing.” Back then, enough blood to cover the end of a Q-tip was necessary; now forensic scientists can gather DNA from microscopic pieces of evidence.
Webster can also recall a time before the Downtown Mall. Webster has patrolled the famously paved-over Main Street for the past 18 months. He’s seen his share of drunks and shoplifters, but says the Downtown patrol, his last assignment, was one of his favorites.
As someone who’s served the community for the past 40 years, Webster says he’d like to see Charlottesville continue to grow. “I’d like to see some of the highways broaden to alleviate some of the traffic.” Other than that, Webster says, “it’s pretty much taking care of itself.” He added, “I like the way the area’s growing.”
In his retirement, Webster hopes to spend more time fishing, golfing and hanging out with his three grandkids. First, though, he says, “I think I’ll take a couple of days off—see what it feels like to sleep past an alarm.”

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