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HOLMBERG: Should misdemeanor suspects be ID’d equally?

Posted at 12:59 AM, Aug 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-21 15:01:20-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Is all graffiti created equal?

Maybe not, according to the Richmond Police Department.

And maybe they're right.

  • Last week Richmond police released clear surveillance photos of four laughing young people apparently involved in a pink-paint graffiti tagging spree in Scott's Addition in west Richmond.
  • Four suspects were quickly identified and three were charged with misdemeanor property damage. Police determined the fourth person didn't tag anything.
  • But RPD declined to release the identity of any of those arrested, saying it's up to them whether to release that information in misdemeanor cases (unlike felonies).

According to an RPD spokesman:

"They were each given a non-custodial summons – a misdemeanor since the damage was less than $1,000 - which means there are no booking photos and no names will be released."

That struck us as a little odd, since they had already released those photos and asked for help. And graffiti certainly is a persistent problem in the city.

And we reminded them that RPD released the ID and booking photo of the man who recently spray-painted an "L" on the base of the Jefferson Davis monument in town. That man plead guilty to misdemeanor property damage.

We were told that the young people charged in the Scott's Addition case cooperated fully and were remorseful.

And yes, even though the two incidents were both misdemeanors, they weren't the same.

The monument vandalism came at a time of high tension here and across the country over Confederate symbols and monuments after the black church massacre in Charleston.

There were strong divides in a country already shaken and tense over fatal shootings by police and violent arrests of African-Americans.

The Jefferson Davis monument had also just been spray-painted with "Black Lives Matter," making the national news.

Another Confederate monument on Church Hill had also been defaced.

So there was much more at stake with the one vandalism.

After kicking the tires on this issue with RPD, they released the IDs of those charged in the Scott's Addition case.

BTW, the race of those charged is all over the map: It was a white guy with the "L" on Monument Avenue. In Scott's Addition it was a Latino female, an African-American female and an Asian male. Check the video for the vandalism.

So, what say you?

Should there be a one-size-fits-all policy? Or should police weigh the severity of misdemeanors before identifying those charged in minor crimes?