Mayor Stoney requests, receives resignation of police chief, appoints interim chief
The decision comes alongside a plan for reimagining public safety
Today, Mayor Stoney announced that he requested and received Chief of Police William Smith’s resignation. The mayor has appointed Major William Jody Blackwell as the Interim Chief of the Richmond Police Department.
“I have high expectations of the Richmond Police Department,” said Mayor Stoney. “And at a minimum I expect them to be willing to come around the table with the community to reform and reimagine public safety.”
“Interim Chief Blackwell is willing and able to focus on necessary public safety reform, healing and trust building within the community,” said Mayor Stoney.
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 9 of their districts to craft a citizen review board with complete community buy-in,” said the mayor.
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.”
The mayor indicated that the city’s response must be holistic, including immediate changes as well as long-term planning informed by community input and evidence-based practices.
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 meet 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.”
Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, will be observed as a paid city holiday. Earlier in the day, Governor Northam declared the day a state holiday. The mayor encouraged everyone to use the day for reflection, service and healing.
“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.”