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Inside the Reimagine Public Safety Task Force report: 'Policing has got to change'

Posted at 5:08 PM, Nov 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-24 18:19:23-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- After 90 days of work, a task force put together by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney to reimagine public safety in the city has released its final report.

Dozens of people, from different parts of Richmond, broke up into three groups to tackle different public safety issues.

In the end, the task force recommended 15 changes to how public safety is handled in Richmond.

911 and Calls for Service

One of the groups looked at how calls for service are handled and gave four recommendations.

Among them — reroute non-criminal 911 calls to agencies other than police.

That would include calls that involved topics like mental health issues, welfare checks, and barking dogs.

"It’s my hope that working with a number of people at the table that we’re able to bring this to life sometime soon," Mayor Stoney said about the proposed change.

Use of Force

Ninth District Richmond Councilmember Michael Jones sat on the subgroup that looked at use of force issues.

That group offered suggestions to increase transparency, training, and policies.

Jones said it was about humanizing use of force.

"Policing has got to change, not just in America, but in Richmond," he said. "If you were arresting your grandmother or you were arresting your nephew or you were arresting your brother, how would you want that interaction to go down and then I think that should just be spread across particular praxis for how we engage everyday citizens."

One suggestion welcomed by Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith was to require officers to intervene if a coworker acted unethically or unlawfully.

"It’s not in the spirit of 'I got you!'" Chief Smith said. "It’s in the spirit of 'Let’s get better as an organization.'"

Community Healing and Engagement

The third subgroup looked at ways to promote community healing and engagement.

Mayor Stoney was asked how long it could take to see the recommendations turn into reality.

"There’s some actionable items that we could actually put into works right away and some of it is going to need a little evaluation as well," he replied.

For his part, Jones said says Richmond City Council will hold the mayor and police department accountable to make sure the changes are implemented.

"I want to see these practices immediately put into place," Jones said. "The ones that are low-hanging fruit, if you will, I want to see it implemented within the next 12-to-18 months."

The mayor's office will now review the recommendations, establish a plan to implement them, and seek community input.

Mayor Stoney announced the need for the task force in June following, at that time, weeks of Black Lives Matter marches, protests against police brutality, and social unrest following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis Police officer.