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HOLMBERG: Who will the mayor pick as Richmond’s new police chief?

Posted at 12:33 AM, Jan 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-17 07:55:43-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- So last week, Richmond Police Chief Ray Tarasovic announced he's retiring--again. It's unclear if Mayor Dwight Jones gave Tarasovic the nudge, but he's outta here sometime around Groundhog Day.

Who will be the next in line?

The mayor said he'll hire within the department. Residents and council members have their favorites, among them Deputy Chief Eric English and violent crimes Major Steve Drew. Both, and a couple others, have earned their stripes in this rough-and-ready city that has needed a lot of policing.

But let's backtrack and have a look at the moves that this rather crafty and legacy-minded mayor has made.

Jones pulled Tarasovic out of retirement almost two years ago to be a sort of temp chief after the mayor gave the boot to the popular but low-key previous chief, Bryan Norwood, a last-minute hire by former mayor L. Douglas Wilder.

Jones wanted his own chief--a legacy chief to police the city the way the mayor wants it done.

Previously, Tarasovic was the second-in-command for our solid, tough-guy chief Rodney Monroe, who is in Charlotte, N.C. now.

When Monroe brought his intense community policing to Richmond from the Washington DC department, he brought Tarasovic and another guy, Alfred Durham, to help him run the show. Richmond's crime picture brightened so dramatically, Monroe became one of the most admired leaders in recent Richmond history. A king-maker.

After a year, Durham went back the DC department to finish his 25 years and get his pension.

He got that last year, and rejoined the Richmond force in mid-November as a deputy chief. He's a Marine veteran, a real semper fi  guy whose name is pronounced dur-Ham because that's the way his drill instructor chose to say it in boot camp, according to legend.

I believe the mayor wanted a hard-nosed Rodney Monroe-type chief and carefully laid this plan out two years ago. Run off Norwood, bring in an older Monroe man until the younger one is ready to rock.

The mayor is like that. A real chess player.

Many in this city underestimate him, possibly because he keeps such a low profile.

Those who think the mayor's biggest legacy plan--the ballpark in Shockoe Bottom--died last year should consider the mayor's political chess skills.

He likes things to go his way. And if you haven't noticed, this strong mayor generally gets exactly what he wants--perhaps because he knows how to plan several moves ahead.