The Richmond Police Department’s top brass has stepped down at the request of Mayor Levar Stoney. Following several recent nights of protests during which police pepper-sprayed and fired rubber bullets at protesters, the mayor called for Chief William Smith to step down.
“He has served this city with grace but we are ready to move it in a new direction,” Mayor Stoney said in a statement. “I have high expectations of the Richmond Police Department. And at a minimum I expect them to be willing to come around the table with the community to reform and reimagine public safety.”
Taking Smith’s place will be Major William “Jody” Blackwell will serve as Interim Chief. Blackwell has worked for the department for over 16 years, according to the city.
“Interim Chief Blackwell is willing and able to focus on necessary public safety reform, healing, and trust-building within the community,” Stoney continued.
The mayor went on to outline a collaborative path forward. He indicated he has spoken to Council President Newbille, and will follow up with a letter, outlining a request that City Council work with the administration, the interim chief, and the community to develop legislation to create a citizen review board.
“My hope is that City Council will be proactive in collaborating with me and community leaders in all nine of their districts to craft a citizen review board with complete community buy-in,” he said.
He also indicated he will sign the Obama Pledge for Mayors, which commits the city to reevaluating its use of force policy. Beyond the immediate changes of strengthening the Richmond Police Department’s ban on chokeholds and duty to intervene policy, that pledge includes the creation of the Richmond Task Force on Reimagining Public Safety.
The task force will bring more than 20 individuals from the activist, legal, academic, law enforcement, behavioral health and other communities together to agree on a set of actionable steps forward within 90 days of the first meeting.
“The mission of this task force will be to make public safety recommendations that build toward equity and justice. Using a restorative justice framework, we can reimagine public safety to create a truly safer city for all – meaning both the members of the community and the officers that serve the community.”
Currently, police officers are asked to respond to every type of crisis, from homelessness to mental health crises. The mayor noted that reimagining public safety in the City of Richmond must include designing an emergency response system and empowering a social safety net that meets these needs.
“We can’t expect our police officers to serve as social workers, psychologists, and juvenile trauma experts, intervening in these situations because America hasn’t properly prioritized other service providers. It does not make our country, or our city, safer.”
“One thing is clear after the past two weeks: Richmond is ready to reimagine public safety. There’s work to be done, so if you have been out on the streets, I invite you to join us at the table. I want to incorporate your experience and turn your pain into progress.”
Richmond reschedules National Night Out events due to COVID-19 concerns
Events will be tentatively rescheduled for October 6th, 2020.
Due to COVID-19 concerns, the Richmond Police Department is rescheduling this year’s National Night Out.
National Night Out will be tentatively held on Tuesday, October 6, 2020.
“We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 conditions in Richmond,” police said in a release. “Please watch RPD’s social media sites for updates.”
National Night Out is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime efforts, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police‐community partnerships, and send a message to criminals letting them know neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
As we get closer to the rescheduled date, RPD will provide updates on the status of 2020 National Night Out.
Victim identified, suspect arrested in fatal accident on North Arthur Ashe Boulevard
Four people were transported to local hospitals for injuries. The victim died from her injuries on Sunday, July 12.
From Richmond Police:
The Richmond Police Department has identified the victim in a fatal accident on Friday, July, 10, as Acacia L. Gross.
On July 10, officers responded to the 1200 block of North Arthur Ashe Boulevard for a report of a six-vehicle accident.
The initial investigation indicates five vehicles were stopped at a traffic light at North Arthur Ashe Boulevard and West Leigh Street. The driver of the sixth vehicle was traveling north on Arthur Ashe Boulevard and ran into the back of Ms. Gross’ vehicle. Ms. Gross’ vehicle went airborne and landed in a parking lot. The sixth vehicle then caused a chain reaction crash with the other vehicles.
Four people were transported to local hospitals for injuries. Ms. Gross died from her injuries on Sunday, July 12.
The driver of the sixth vehicle has been identified as Susan A. Bain.
Bain is charged with aggravated manslaughter.
Anyone who witnessed or who has information about the traffic accident is asked to call Detective G. Drago at (804) 646-1369 or Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000.
Richmond man seen pepper-sprayed in video files suit against city, officer
As Smith filmed the officers after a night of protests, riots and looting, one deployed pepper spray in the direction of his open window. He says the chemical agent reached him and his belongings inside the apartment.
By Andrew Ringle
“They sprayed innocent people.”
That’s what Richmond resident Mikhail Smith said drove him to lean outside his apartment window in the early morning hours of May 31 and start filming what would soon become a viral video — police officers pepper-spraying pedestrians on the sidewalk outside his home.
As Smith filmed the officers after a night of protests, riots, and looting, one deployed pepper spray in the direction of his open window. He says the chemical agent reached him and his belongings inside the apartment.
Smith has now filed a lawsuit against the city and the unnamed officer. Smith said he is seeking $400,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
“I wish I could say it was the pepper spray that hurt the most,” Smith said in a news release. “It was not.”
Smith said he was “enraged and traumatized” after seeing police use force on “innocent people.”
After gaining attention on social media for the video, Smith said he endured “vitriol, hate, and unspeakable threats of violence.”
“Because of police action, I no longer have the privilege of just being an American living in peace,” Smith said. “I am emotionally in a state of war.”
Smith has attended demonstrations in Richmond since the death of George Floyd in May. Floyd died in Minneapolis while in police custody. On June 2, Mikhail Smith spoke directly to former Richmond Police Chief William Smith during a town hall held by Mayor Levar Stoney.
“I protest the police that do not do their job,” Mikhail Smith said. “This is not a war against police; this is a war against police brutality.”
Mikhail Smith said he does not take the legal action lightly and he does not intend to disrespect public safety institutions.
“I am not here to throw bricks at cop cars or at local shops downtown,” Mikhail Smith said. “I am here today laying brick-by-brick a monument that should stand as a monument to all the stress, pain, and anguish in my life and the lives of others.”
Chesterfield attorneys Gary Reinhardt and W. Barry Montgomery are representing Mikhail Smith in the lawsuit.
The Richmond Police Department did not respond to a request for comments.