If you went to the front hall, you were likely in trouble, said Maj. Denise Downer-McKinney.
But many years ago when she was a patrol officer, and on the advice of a fellow patrol officer, Downer-McKinney took an issue to Deputy Chief Lonzo Roberson.
“I was scared to death,” Downer-McKinney said. “I had never been to the front hall.”
Downer-McKinney learned what many learned about Roberson.
“He was a very good listener,” she said. “He was empathetic. He has been phenomenal for me as a mentor, as a manager.”
The department and the city of Rome honored Roberson during his last day on the job Friday afternoon for his 40 years of service to the city.
Beginning as a patrol officer in 1972 and rising through the ranks, Roberson is known for catching more burglars than anyone else in the department, said new Deputy Chief Travis Goss.
But once, the burglar caught up with Roberson.
He and another officer had caught a burglar but not his accomplice.
The other officer drove the burglar in the police car, while Roberson drove the burglar’s car.
Then he heard a whistle. He looked in his rear-view mirror and saw someone running toward him. Putting two and two together, he realized it was the burglar’s accomplice.
“I go about two blocks because I wanted him to be good and tired,” Roberson said. “I looked back in the mirror ,and here comes someone just a running. He jumps in and I jump out and then I got him.”
Roberson became a sergeant in 1983 and was promoted to deputy chief in 1984 and has served in that position longer than any other deputy chief for the department.
“You will be missed,” said Rome Police Chief Elaine Snow. “Your presence will be missed.”
Roberson was deputy chief to Snow and former chiefs Hubert Smith and Joe Cleveland.
“He was an asset to me,” said former Chief Hubert Smith. “I could always depend on him to do the right thing.”
Smith said Roberson handles all the grievances so well that in his 20 years as chief, he only handled two or three.
Roberson, who began as deputy chief the same year as Rome City Manager John Bennett began his tenure, has been “steady as a rock,” Bennett said.
“If I really wanted something done, I would call Lonzo,” Bennett said. “He is as dedicated and loyal as you will ever find.”
Lori Whorton-Spence, chief clerk of the Rome Municipal Court, worked directly with Roberson since her promotion early this year.
“I have worked in law enforcement for the past thirty years and I have to say that Lonzo Roberson is one of the finest examples of a ‘life dedicated to public service’ that I have witnessed during my career,” Whorton-Spence said. “He exemplifies what all members of the law enforcement community aspire to. Deputy Chief Roberson is a true leader that leads by example.
“He is courageous, honest, strong, sincere and compassionate.”
Roberson delayed his retirement for a few months at the request of Snow and continued to commute from the Felton home he shares with his wife, Bea.
Roberson started a legacy of public service.
His son Brad Roberson is a captain in the Rome-Floyd County Fire Department. His son Dave Roberson is a captain with the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office.
“Between us, we have 74 years of service,” he said.
Maj. Travis Goss is serving as the new deputy police chief. Goss and four other officers were promoted as a result of Roberson’s retirement.
Capt. Debbie Burnett was promoted to major, replacing Goss.
Lt. Carla Pearson was promoted to captain.
Sgt. John Walters was promoted to lieutenant, and Pfc. Kevin Morang was promoted to sergeant.