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Richmond's new police chief: 'I'm listening'

Posted at 4:33 PM, Jun 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-28 23:47:12-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond's newest police chief, Gerald Smith, said he does not seek to make any immediate changes to the department before he begins the job Wednesday.

Mayor Levar Stoney introduced Smith during a Saturday afternoon news briefing where he called the new hire a "bold leader for a challenging time."

"And I have full faith that this is the leader that can not only move the Richmond Police Department to the next level, but also bring our city together as well," Stoney said.

Smith pledged to begin by listening.

"We want to make this department better, we want to make this department better than what it was, so I am listening right now," Smith said. "The number one thing that I want to find out before we make any type of change is what's in the ground."

Smith currently serves as the Deputy Police Chief for Investigative Services of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in North Carolina.

In that position, he commands criminal investigations including domestic violence, crimes against children, sexual assault, and homicide.

He has been with that department for 29 years, rising in the ranks from community police officer to deputy chief.

Smith's appointment comes 11 days after William "Jody" Blackwell was made named interim chief following the resignation of William Smith.

Stoney said he looked at multiple candidates from across the country before selecting Smith, who said he was aware of the job after the previous chief's resignation.

"It was on the radar and so there were a lot of phone calls going around that I made and that were made to be about it," Smith said. "You would have to ask the mayor how long he put into this. From my understanding, he put some work into this and you don't choose a police chief without looking around."

As as protests continue in Richmond, the use of chemicals by police on protesters has become a source of outrage -- and a tactic community members said is uncalled for.

Smith said his officers in Charlotte have used it as well, but it will be something he examines in Richmond.

"To tell you, should they not be used. No, they should be used properly, OK," Smith said. "And that's clear in anyone making the decision should be held responsible for the use of those munitions."

Smith said he wants to help heal and strengthen the relationship between Richmonders and police.

"We're looking at the community being deeply involved in this police department," Smith said. "We're looking to actually be involved in the community."