Former Richmond detective wants city to remove anti-police graffiti at Lee Circle: 'It's hateful'

Posted at 8:40 PM, Jan 10, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- From growing up in Richmond Public Schools to protecting and serving his city, Jamie Baynes has a strong connection to Richmond.

“Richmond is a part of me," Baynes said. “I love the City of Richmond. I love the Richmond Police Department.”

It's one of the reasons he proudly wore a badge as a member of the Richmond Police Department for 27 years. He first became a patrol officer in 1993, then transferred to youth services, and then worked as a homicide detective.

He described his time with RPD as exceptionally positive -- up until 2020.

"It was tough because it seemed like we got surrounded between the media, the entertainment industry, businesses, all that kind of stuff, were just saying, 'the police are bad, the police are bad, the police are bad,'" Baynes said.

That kind of anti-police messaging, Baynes said, grew strong across the country following the death of George Floyd and made its way to Richmond. But he said many of his colleagues were "forward-thinking," valued diversity, and supported the racial justice movement.

“No police officer that I spoke with in Richmond agreed with what happened or what happened to [Floyd]. I think it was at that point where the police department and the citizens could come together, but it went off the rails and went the other way," he said. "We got lumped together with other police departments across the country that weren't as forward-thinking as we were."

Summer 2020 in Richmond was marked by civil unrest and tensions between the police and the people. Oftentimes, conflicts were on full display at the site of the former Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue, which was dubbed the epicenter of the protest movement.

At that location in June 2020, Richmond officers teargassed peaceful demonstrators. The incident led to a settlement between protesters and the City of Richmond.

But other protests were not peaceful. Baynes recalled one night when people set fires to trucks outside of the downtown RPD headquarters.

“They had the dump trucks surrounding the downtown headquarters, the huge concrete pillars out there. People had burned those up, and they left those burnt trucks there for at least a week or two. So, every time you'd go in, it'd be like going into almost a third-world country," Baynes said.

It was after that incident that Baynes turned in his uniform in September 2020, after nearly three decades of service.

“I was like, you know, at this point, I'm done. I'm done with it, and it was a very hard decision," he said.

Fast forward to 2023, and reminders of past conflicts remain on the barriers surrounding Lee Circle. Spraypainted all over the barriers, which were installed in June 2020, are anti-police messages.

The graffiti shows officers depicted as pigs and other phrases which contain vulgar language.

“It's hateful language toward the police, and here they sit. Police officers have spouses, they have partners, they have kids," Baynes said. “So, you got cops who work this beat and have to drive by that every single day, with all the nasty, hate-filled stuff against cops. So, I think it's just ridiculous. It shouldn't be here.”

Baynes questioned what type of message city leadership is sending the community and its police department by allowing the barricades to remain.

The city was supposed to have taken down the state-owned barriers and fencing this past fall, but delays persist. Now, the barriers will likely stay up until at least Spring as the city works on a temporary landscaping project for the space. It's only after that project is complete that the barricades will be removed.

City Councilwoman Katherine Jordan, whose 2nd District includes the circle, said she was advised by the city administration that physical articles from the circle, including the barriers, cannot be altered due to the settlement between the city and protesters who were tear-gassed by officers.

"Along with so many across the City and in the Second District, I look forward to the removal of the jersey barriers and fencing. Our understanding is that work will begin soon on the irrigation in the circle, in advance of the planned landscaping," Jordan said.

CBS 6 also asked Mayor Levar Stoney for a response to Baynes' concerns, and his spokesperson Jim Nolan sent the following statement:

“The mayor also takes exception to the offensive messaging, and the barriers with graffiti will be removed and returned to the Commonwealth upon completion of the landscaping project for the circle later this spring."

However, Baynes said it's time for the barriers to no longer be on public display.

“It’s a very strong sign of disrespect to the men and women who are protecting the city and are doing it with less officers but are still doing it well," Baynes said.

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