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1 complaint filed against Richmond Police over handling of protestors

Posted at 11:40 AM, Jun 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-02 11:40:35-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Hours before Richmond Police officers launched tear gas into a crowd of peaceful protestors gathered around the Lee Monument, Richmond Police Chief William Smith asked residents to take the time to file a formal complaint if they believed a police officer had engaged in misconduct.

Chief Smith said that the department would "fully investigate" all complaints. Complaints can be made online or by picking up a form from the First, Second, Third, or Fourth Precinct office.

"I ask them to please reach out to our Internal Affairs Division and we will fully investigate every single one of those," Smith said.

As of Monday afternoon, before the incident at the monument, Smith said that he was only aware of one filed complaint. It was made by VPM reporter Roberto Roldan who tweeted that he was pepper-sprayed Sunday by a Richmond Police Officer after showing his press badge and identifying himself as a reporter.

“That shouldn't happen ever. And so I've asked the chief to look into it,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said Monday morning. “I've spoken to one of the reporters involved as well to check in on him because it that should never happen.”

Hours later, Mayor Stoney and Richmond Police apologized for firing tear gas into a crowd of peaceful protesters gathered on Monument Avenue.

Chief Smith later announced some officers involved in the tear-gassing response would be removed from duty and disciplined because “their actions were outside dept protocols and directions given.”

It is unclear Tuesday morning how many, if any, formal complaints have been made against Richmond Police.

Protestors have reached out to CBS 6 to share their stories.

Mikhail Smith, 25, said he was hanging outside of his apartment window on Broad Street Sunday as officers walked on the sidewalk below. He saw officers pepper-spray three women who walked by.

"These three ladies were just walking down the street and you can hear in the video [the police] say 'go home' and then the ladies respond back 'you go home.' And they proceeded to spray them," Smith recalled.

Smith recorded the incident on video.

He can be heard shouting profanities at the officers as they walked the sidewalk underneath his apartment.

"I've been exercising my First Amendment right this entire weekend including yelling, whatever I want to yell at police officers, I'm allowed to do that," he said. "I didn't make any threats."

As the officers walked past Smith's window, the video showed one officer shoot spray upwards towards Smith, who was still inside his home.

"I mean I was shocked," said Smith. "I got a big whiff of it and I start coughing try to get out of my lungs.”

When asked about the incident, a Richmond Police spokesperson said the department was investigating.

Smith said he was reluctant to file a formal complaint.

"I know that doesn't go anywhere,” he said. “All that does is someone gets a slap on the wrist. Someone may or may not get a little thing on their record, they might have to do spray training again or something.”

The Richmond Police website states all formal complaints are thoroughly investigated.

"When we receive your complaint, the Internal Affairs Team will send a letter to inform you that your complaint has been received and assigned for investigation,” a statement on the website read.

The Richmond Police Department outlines the investigation procedure as follows:

"The assigned supervisor will conduct a thorough investigation. He will interview the employee involved and any witnesses. The investigating supervisor may contact you for additional details or to clarify the information you have already provided. If it becomes necessary for you to contact the investigating supervisor, you may do so by calling him directly or by calling Internal Affairs Team. Normally, the investigation will be completed within 30 days of the time we receive the complaint. If not, you will be notified. The employee's supervisors will make a decision about the complaint based on the facts available. The decision will be one of four findings:"

  • Substantiated - The employee acted improperly.
  • Not Substantiated - The complaint can be neither proved nor disproved.
  • Unfounded - The available evidence does not support the complaint.
  • Justified - The officer's actions were proper.

"If an allegation is sustained, appropriate action will be taken. The action may involve counseling, verbal or written reprimand, suspension from duty, or termination. The supervisor will call to inform you of the findings and you will receive a follow-up letter."
"However, in accordance with the law and out of respect for employees' privacy, we do not release what specific discipline was imposed on the employee."