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Interim chief will focus on changing Richmond Police

Posted at 11:15 PM, Jun 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 09:05:07-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Interim Richmond Police Chief Jody Blackwell will not have a long time to get comfortable with his new role.

Morale at the Richmond Police Department is at a low due to recent leadership, Crime Insider sources told Jon Burkett. Some officers might be weighing options to leave, he was told.

Tuesday, nearly a year after he was sworn in, Richmond Police Chief William Smith was pushed out.

"It boils down whether the leadership embraces change or stands in the way,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. “That is why as of this morning, I requested the resignation of Chief Smith and he has tendered it."

Smith’s departure came after weeks of turmoil and several violent protests on city streets.

In Smith's place now stands 23-year-veteran officer Maj. Blackwell, a Marine Corps veteran and officer who has filled several leadership positions within the department.

"Interim Chief Blackwell is willing and able to focus on necessary public safety reforms,” said Stoney. “He will lead our healing and trust building within the community."

Some Richmonders say that trust has been broken because of glaring gaps in leadership over the past few weeks.

Nearly 19 days and counting, amid mostly peaceful protests some glaring examples of lawlessness, vandalism, and violence.

Stoney said it was time to turn the page.

"Some officers have said that what they thought were bags of gas, turned out to be urine," Burkett asked Mayor Stoney. "Was that what triggered tear gas and rubber bullets? "

"There have been officers who have gone to the hospital, the emergency room, who have had very rashes, cuts, bruises, you name it. And my belief is that a peaceful protest is a protest that everybody goes home uninjured. And that has not been the case all the time," Stoney replied. "And so that's what we aspire to be. We aspire to be a city where you can come here and peacefully protest, which has happened on a number of occasions. And people, all people involved, law enforcement and those peaceful protesters go home uninjured."

The mayor pledged transparency Tuesday afternoon.

He said once the investigations are complete, the department would release bodycam video that showed how protests were playing out.