RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - William Smith was sworn in Wednesday morning during a ceremony at Virginia Union University, officially becoming Richmond’s police chief.
Smith, 51, followed in his father’s footsteps to become a police officer and began his is career with Richmond Police Department 24 years ago on the same day his father, Lt. Sherrell Smith, retired after a long career with the department.
Smith is Richmond’s first police chief to be promoted from within the department since 1967.
Mayor Levar Stoney chose Smith for the top post after a national search.
“We are headed in the right direction, and Chief Smith knows the way,” Stoney said during Wednesday’s ceremony.
Smith was originally announced as the new chief June 26 after serving as interim chief following the retirement of Alfred Durham.
Smith steps into the role after several high-profile incidents of gun violence.
Two children were caught in the crossfire at a South Richmond park, and one of those victims, Markiya Dickson, died. Currently, the city has five more homicides and 44 more people wounded by gunfire than at this time last year.
But major crime in the city, including violence and property crime, is down slightly, compared to this time in 2018.
“Now, there’s no question, we have a lot of work to do,” Stoney said. The mayor asked Richmonders to invest in their new chief as Smith continues to invest in the community.
Smith outlined some of his most important strategies moving forward, saying he’s strongly committed to listening to the officers he leads and the community RPD serves.
“My role as the chief of police is to listen to the needs of the community, desires of the community, expectations of the community and translate that into action,” Smith said.
Smith also stressed compassionate policing and accountability.
“In many cases, the best solution is something other than a law enforcement action, but rather a compassionate action,” he said. “We must have the public trust in order to accomplish these goals.”
Another focus Smith outlined is restorative justice, helping offenders transform their lives and succeeding when they return to the community.
"We believe people can transform their lives, and we're going to be a supportive partner in that process," he said.
Smith said he didn’t take the interim police chief spot just keep the seat warm. Over the last seven months, he’s already made changes and said he is excited to continue to move the department forward.
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