RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced that the city’s chief of police has resigned.
Mayor Stoney said he requested Richmond Police Chief Will Smith’s resignation, and he turned it in.
“He has served this city with grace but we are ready to move it in a new direction”, Mayor Stoney says about Chief Smith stepping down.
Major William “Jody” Blackwell will be the Interim Chief of the Richmond Police Department.
Sector 113 Lt. Blackwell has worked for the Richmond Police Department for 16 years.
Blackwell has worked as the sector lieutenant for one year for an area that covers 1.55 city miles and includes the communities of Whitcomb, Mosby, Eastview, Fairmont, Peter Paul, Creighton and Woodville.
“Interim Chief Blackwell is willing and able to focus on necessary public safety reform, healing and trust-building within the community,” Mayor Stoney said.
Mayor Stoney indicated that he has spoken to Council President Newbille, and will follow up with a letter, outlining a request that City Council work with the administration, the interim chief and the community to develop legislation to create a citizen review board.
Mayor Stoney also indicated he will sign the Obama Pledge for Mayors, which commits the city to reevaluate its use of force policy.
Beyond the immediate changes in strengthening the Richmond Police Department’s ban on chokeholds and duty to intervene policy, that pledge includes the creation of the Richmond Task Force on Reimagining Public Safety.
“Richmond is ready for a new approach to public safety,” Mayor Stoney said.
The task force will bring more than 20 individuals from the activist, legal, academic, law enforcement, behavioral health and other communities together to agree on a set of actionable steps forward within 90 days of the first meeting.
“The community wants to be heard, and I guarantee you will be heard”, Stoney said.
The city is currently building blockades around RPD headquarters.
Smith’s resignation follows several nights of clashes between protesters and the RPD where pepper-spray and tear gas was used on protesters.
Stephanie Lynch attended protests outside of RPD headquarters on Sunday night and Mike Jones was at protests downtown on Monday night.
Lynch said she was called out to protests on Sunday night by her constituents who were concerned about a 22-year-old woman who had been arrested by officers. She says about 15 to 20 minutes after she arrived is when police started using tear gas on the crowds.
"It was not warranted at all. And I actually looked across the picket line and I said ‘What are you all doing? Why are you doing this? Why?’” said Lynch in an interview on Monday.
Other reports and social media posts indicate that protesters had thrown objects like water bottles at officers. Richmond’s police chief confirms rocks and other objects were thrown at his officers.
“You will hear said that people threw things. Someone threw a bottle that had liquid into a crowd of officers that was in riot gear - not right, not justified that action. But does the response warrant gassing an entire crowd?” Jones said.
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