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RPD Chief: Civilian review board could worsen existing police shortage

RPD Chief: Civilian review board could worsen existing police shortage
Posted at 11:04 PM, Oct 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-26 23:31:37-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond's Police Chief spoke out on Tuesday night about low morale and a staffing shortage in the department.

While citizens advocated for a civilian review board, Richmond's Police Chief said that it could make the shortage worse than it already is.

"We did a two-step increase and we are doing a study that compares us to surrounding agencies,” Lambert said. “I mean, folks are flying out the door left and right because we don't pay enough and if you want good people. You gotta pay them and that's what we have to do in the city of Richmond

"The police should not be policing the police, even the president is policed by the justice department,” said an unnamed speaker before Richmond City Council Tuesday night.

There was a lot of talk on Tuesday night about a Citizen's Review Board, a task force created to establish an oversight body for the Richmond Police Department, to investigate complaints about police misconduct, and discipline officers and review policies.

A group at Tuesday's meeting wants their version of the civilian review board to be adopted by the city council to include subpoenas and hiring and firing powers.

"The people have decided that they want a Civilian Review Board with teeth, and one tooth is the ability to discipline officers,” said a second unnamed speaker.

RPD currently has 102 vacancies and Crime Insider sources tell me dozens more are set to leave.

Chief Gerald Smith says morale and retention is a problem already and that if the CRB is implemented, he says it's likely more officers will abandon ship.

"It would hurt morale even more if this particular CRB passes,” said Smith. “I do believe the officers will accept a CRB that's more aligned with four other models you see across the country. But what they're proposing here, I've yet to see a model anywhere in the country go into play."

"And when they bring up cases like Marcus David Peters, it was vetted by internal investigations,” I told Chief Smith. I continued: “The state police found no wrongdoing on officers' part, yet they continue to bring it up as fact and that police were in the wrong here. The commonwealth attorney's office cleared the officer, too.”

“It’s upsetting when you take a tragic event for everyone involved that happened in the city and you use it to codify rage. It's not doing anyone good. It doesn't do the city good and it won't come up with a CRB process that's beneficial to the city of Richmond," Smith said.

There have been 68 homicides this year so far among more than 200 shooting calls.

Smith says ideas about how to handle those call numbers and caseloads are complex.

Third District Councilwoman Ann-Frances Lambert did a ride-along with police.

"Our officers are tired, look at the vacancies we have as a city, and it's really concerning," said Lambert.

She says the ride-along wasn't just an eye-opening experience, but one that convinced her the city needs to open their wallets as well.