Richmond’s new police chief answers questions about who’s calling the shots

Posted at 12:31 AM, Feb 20, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones announced last week that former police Chief Bryan Norwood resigned, but that’s not accurate. Norwood said he didn’t want to leave and was forced out.

And he also said the mayor didn’t tell  him what he was doing wrong.

The mayor also apparently didn’t tell his surprise pick for a replacement chief – former deputy chief Ray Tarasovic – what he didn’t like about Norwood’s department.

“We talked about the department from A to Z,” Tarasovic said during a sit-down interview with CBS-6 Tuesday afternoon. “We talked about the city from A to Z. We didn’t talk about specific problems. We talked about my kinds of solutions, and my kinds of solutions match his philosophy.”

His solutions: intensity, vigorously engaging members of all communities, accountability and hustle.

His reputation from when he served under former Chief Rodney Monroe is he’s a stern leader who accepts no slacking, no excuses.

“I wouldn’t call it stern,” he responded. “But some might. What I would call it is intense, Mark. That’s what I do. I like to get business done. I like to react to things quickly, I like to respond to things quickly.”

There are some on the force who fear the new chief will march to the mayor’s tune.

“I’m going to be the mayor’s chief of police for sure,” Tarasovic said. “But I am the chief of police. And the mayor’s conversations and mine have been wonderful. And, they’ve been about moving forward.”

He also had a reputation of being a bit of a hatchet man – if people need to get gone, if things need to happen, he made it happen.

Has the mayor given him some hatcheting to do?

“I have been given no hatcheting to do,” Tarasovic responded. “I have been given a department to run.”

He said, at this point, he’s happy with the command staff he inherited.

Has he been told to do a reduction of staffing, any trimming of the police budget – the second largest after schools in tight fiscal times?

“Nothing like that,” he said. “But budgets are budgets. And people learn to live with budgets that they have. I am preparted to do the job with whatever budget the city can afford.”

He was a surprise pick for sure. Is this just temporary?

“That has not been our discussion,” Tarasovic said. “The mayor asked me to be his chief of police. I will be his chief of police for as long as the mayor needs me.”

Interestingly, the city’s human resources department just added the “chief of police” listing to its help-wanted website page.

Bryan Norwood was kind of the quiet chief, did the mayor ask for a higher profile from Tarasovic?

“The mayor didn’t suggest that,” he said. “I have a high profile . . . I know I’m a person who engages, as we’re engaging now. A little animated. It’s what I am.”

It’s no secret that Tarasovic and his wife fell in love with Richmond when he worked here under Rodney Monroe. When he followed Monroe to Charlotte to serve as deputy there, his wife stayed in Richmond.

“Straight up honest with you,” he said. “I don’t know any job that I would’ve taken besides this one. I love this town!”

What about the department’s relationship with the media? Is there going to be more information coming out?