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Richmond Police Chief appears before civilian review board taskforce

Richmond Police Cruiser Classic Day Crime Generic
Posted at 10:22 PM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 23:18:18-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith and his leadership team presented the department’s current review process for disciplining officers to a task force of nine members tasked with designing a potential civilian review board.

Law enforcement around the country remains under high scrutiny. After a summer of justice reform protests, Richmond now works to determine how to organize a civilian review board.

Smith and his department spoke to Mayor Levar Stoney's taskforce virtually on Wednesday night.

“A civilian review board might not solve all of those problems but add a level of protection,” said taskforce Co-Chair Eli Coston.

When Chief Smith first assumed this office, he created the Office of Professional Accountability, which is made up of RPD’s general counsel, public relations, internal audits and inspections.

RPD Capt. Jason Hudson, who oversees Internal Affairs Division, said his employees focus solely on internal and external complaints, both criminal and administrational in nature. A supervisor is required to take a complaint no matter if the officer is assigned to their division.

“Once those investigations are complete, a final investigative report is submitted through channels to the chief of police for the final disposition,” Hudson explained.

Ultimately, the police chief has far-reaching authority on whether to accept his team’s recommendation for discipline. That can include putting the officer or employee on administrative leave, require additional training or outright termination, among others.

Erik Nielson, a task force member, asked Chief Smith how many times he has exceeded or increase the recommended discipline for an employee.

“I don't have a number. I know I have on a few occasions,” Chief Smith responded. “But I do struggle to come up with a time where I do less than recommended action.”

Dozens gathered at Diversity Richmond for a public meeting to weigh in on Tuesday.

The biggest questions presented to those in attendance were about what the citizen review board would look like, what types of complaints it would accept, what powers it would have and what the composition of the board would be.

“I'd also like to see people on the CRB who have been most impacted by police violence,” one woman said.

Another community member suggested the CRB should work closely with RPD’s internal affairs to fully investigate complaints.

Retired Richmond Police Officer, Glenwood Burley, was serving on the Mayor's Task Force. He said the city had a respected police department for decades.

"Stop the exodus of the police officers leaving our department," said Burley. "We’re well close to 100."

Burley urged members to reconsider developing a civilian review board altogether, saying it's not needed.

"Their spirit is broken," Burley said. "Their self-pride in being a police officer is questioned."

The task force will make their recommendations to City Council this fall and then vote on the specifics of the review board if approved.