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Retired RPD detective urges return of controversial federal crime program

Retired RPD detective urges return of controversial federal crime program
Posted at 11:31 PM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-15 15:30:05-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Homicides are rising in Richmond, part of a relentless spike of violence in the city.

Earlier this week, CBS6 spoke with Mayor Levar Stoney about a federal partnership called Project Exile.

On Thursday night, a retired Richmond homicide detective offered his take on why he says police should breathe life back into the program.

"If we went to solving problems instead of worrying about politics so much, we'd have a better situation going on and get a lot more issues solved," said Joseph Fultz, who spent more than 25 years as a major crimes detective investigating homicides in Richmond.

"We have to put politics aside and I get it, they're taking heat from whoever, but let's look at the problem,” Fultz said. “The initial problem is violent crime, illegal guns, criminals using those guns and who is it affecting? People in those communities."

Critics of Project Exile say it's a racist policy, by focusing on crime hot spots in urban areas and removing city suspects, who are usually Black.

Fultz, who is the father of a CBS6 employee, says that's what he took away from Mayor Stoney’s comments Wednesday night.

"We want to bring all resources to bear,” Stoney said. “However we want to learn from our mistakes in the past. Project Exile was a success in the '90s when we were seeing high violence numbers but we also know that because of that, we've learned how to execute other effective programs."

“I think [Stoney’s] take was that Project Exile was used to target communities with people of color. But that's not the case. Project Exile targeted people doing criminal acts against people in the neighborhoods and its point was to stem the flow of violence," Fultz said.

Illegal firearms and ammunition carry an automatic five years in federal prison under Project Exile. With other convictions, more federal time gets tacked on, and convicted suspects are sent far from home.

"Criminals don't follow the law, so they'll get guns,” said Fultz, who hopes to see the program brought back.

He also believes that Richmonders would welcome it back.

"Am I to ignore the fact that in black communities where I worked for years and are some of my favorite parts of this city, am I not to protect those people?” Fultz said. “The people that ask for protection, it was our job. It bothers me that people who weren't out there to see what went on and don’t talk to citizens who are tired of dodging bullets in their house or seeing people killed out front. Yeah, it bothers me."