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Richmond’s interim police chief addresses new role; Stoney talks with officers

Updated: Jun. 18, 2020 at 5:50 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Mayor Levar Stoney named William “Jody” Blackwell as the interim chief of the Richmond Police Department after the resignation of Chief Will Smith.

“I’m proud to work alongside the men and women ofo the Richmond police department,” Interim Chief Blackwell said.

On Thursday, Blackwell offered remarks about the new assignment.

“The city’s faced with trying times, including the city unrest at a level many of us have not seen before,” Chief Blackwell said.

Thursday, Major William “Jody” Blackwell, Longtime Richmond Police Chief of Staff and former Marine, addressed the city as he stepped up to lead.

“The strength of our city is truly being tested. We know as a society we have to improve race relations, combat discrimination and racism,” Blackwell said.

This comes after weeks of violent protests throughout the city and scrutiny of the use of force and teargas by officers. It also comes days after Stoney called for the resignation of the former chief, William Smith and picking Blackwell to be the interim chief.

“We all share the same frustrations. None of us, not one police officer or community member asked for what we are going through right now,” Blackwell said.

When discussing morale in the police department, Blackwell said he has the support of his officers and community but knows there’s work to be done. He emphasized working on the relationship between police and the community.

“For my officers, every decision has been a bad decision. It’s been a double-edged sword. It frustrates me to no end. I have some of the greatest men and women with the Richmond Police Department and they stand judged by people who refuse to even sit down and talk with us civilly,” Blackwell said.

“They put the uniform on and come to work, and they want to go home as well,” Stoney said.

Stoney also spoke with several RPD officers who showed up to talk one-on-one with the mayor.

“They were able to express to me their exhaustion, their frustrations as well,” Stoney said.

Stoney says after weeks of unrest ‘naturally’ some morale is lost within the police department.

“There have been two officers that were shot. They have been hit with bricks, cinder blocks, stones and urine,” Stoney said.

Officers made a special request to Richmond’s leader.

“They ask that I remind Richmond residents that they have one of the best police departments in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Stoney said.

Stoney said he supports Blackwell’s record of service and believes Blackwell has respect from officers.

“We didn’t ask for any of this, including me, being here. We are going to make do with what we have and continue to push forward,” Blackwell said.

Blackwell is a 22-year veteran of the department; his most recent assignment, as a Major, was Chief of Staff.

“It’s an honor to be offered this opportunity and to follow in the footsteps of our former Chief of Police William C. Smith,” Blackwell said in a release. “I pray the citizens of Richmond can come together and support the fine men and women of the Richmond Police Department. The goal is to work together, so we can move our community forward and extinguish the concerns we are currently faced with.”

Here’s a look at Blackwell’s bio, provided by Richmond Police:

Interim Chief Blackwell joined the Department in December 1997. His most recent positions were Chief of Staff and Major. Before that, he served as the Officer In Charge of the Internal Affairs Division. He was also the Commander of Fourth Precinct, which was recognized as “Precinct of the Year” for crime reduction three years in row during his time in charge. He was also a member of the SWAT Team.

Interim Chief Blackwell is the Department’s most recent graduate of the FBI National Academy.

The Virginia native is a proud veteran of the United States Marine Corps.

REWATCH Tuesday’s press conference here:

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