Richmond officer gets backlash for trimming overgrown trees

Published: Aug. 31, 2016 at 5:56 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2016 at 12:31 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A Richmond police officer faced backlash after trying to spruce up his patrol beat.

Richmond Master Patrol Officer Tim Wade uses heavy duty clippers to trim pesky branches taking over Hull Street.

Branches and sprouts on trees lining Hull Street in South Richmond had grown well across the sidewalk, according to neighbors. This can create a safety hazard for pedestrians, and even a place for criminals to hide from passersby.

However, one neighbor complained that this might not be what an officer should be doing while on duty.

NBC12 found the Richmond Police Department's stance is quite the contrary.

Mike Hild of Church Hill Ventures is revitalizing the Manchester neighborhood, raising money to buy vacant buildings and planting dozens of trees along Hull Street. Hild also trims branches already invading the sidewalk.

"Branches will shoot out the side [of the tree] if it isn't cut…People were kind of having to duck to get behind [the branches]," said Hild.

However, Hild found an unlikely partner in his city landscaping. Officer Tim Wade uses time in between calls to help clear the hazardous overgrowth. The two ran into each other during one recent weekend.

"[Officer Wade] lifted up his branch trimmer, kind of like the one I have, that was in his patrol car," said Hild.

Wade was named Officer of the Month in 2014. The pair trimmed trees on ten blocks of Hull Street. However, a resident called dispatch to complain about the officer doing landscaping on the clock.

Even though an official complaint was filed, word spread on social media.

"Unfortunately, someone complained that the officer was trimming trees and not doing more traditional police work," continued Hild.

NBC12 asked Richmond Police about protocol. A police spokesperson says officers are encouraged to help clear blight and other environmental issues in their beats, like trash and overgrown branches. Police have radios on their person at all times. The moment a call comes in, police officials say officers are off.

"I think that this officer in particular should be commended. We need more officers like that," said Hild of Officer Wade.

Officer Wade was ultimately praised by the department for his dedication to the community, for any kind of issue it may face.

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