RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is outlining his plans for “reimaging public safety.” He says there are five specific areas he wants to look at with a magnifying glass: policy, accountability, programs, community healing and engagement, and governance.
During the virtual meeting, protesters stood outside Richmond City Hall calling for police reform.
Stoney says Richmond Police has strengthened their “Duty to Intervene” policy where officers should be legally and morally obligated to intervene when they believe an officer/supervisor is about to use excessive or unnecessary force. The department also updated RPD’s current ban on chokehold to provide greater specificity for officers.
During the meeting, Councilman Michael Jones asked Stoney if he would support an immediate ban on the use of tear gas, flashbangs, and rubber bullets on protestors.
“Any use of those tactics should be last resort, last resort only,” Stoney declared.
During the regularly scheduled city council meeting at 6 pm, residents voiced their concerns nearby, referencing back to the tear gas incident at the Lee Monument.
One man said, “The use of force is closer to an occupying military force than anything that can be set to serve and protect of the people of this city. This military-style assault on civilians began with the gassing of a lawful, peaceful assembly of citizens on public property.”
Residents repeated their demands virtually to council which includes – working with the Marcus-David Peters family on the Marcus Alert, a civil review board with subpoena power and the removal of monuments, among other items.
Stoney says he wants to establish a civilian review board to hold police accountable. He recommended council members hold two meetings in their districts to further discussions. Within the next few months, an ordinance should be prepared for introduction, Stoney added.
Stoney plans to implement the Marcus Alert. The citywide system will provide the necessary help to individuals experiencing mental or behavioral health crises.
Stoney wants to take a human services approach to policing where community organizations can provide 24-hour assistance to police.
“Yes, we need officers to respond to violent criminal acts in our neighborhoods, but we cannot expect our officers to serve as social workers, psychologists, child trauma experts, mental health workers,” said Stoney.
Community Healing and Engagement
Stoney plans to create a task force of 20-plus diverse community members to agree on actionable steps within 90 days.
The task force will focus on five priority areas:
1. Police policy, practices and culture
2. Police accountability
3. Community healing and engagement
4. Officer training and education
5. Officer and community wellness.
“The mission will be to make public safety recommendations built on equity and justice,” Stoney declared.
He signed Obama’s Mayor Pledge, committing to a full review of the police department’s use of force policies. The task force will lead the efforts.
“Going to the past or how times were before COVID-19, before the economic downtone, before the social unrest is unacceptable, it’s time to turn our pain into real progress,” Stoney said.
He added he’s committed to removing the city’s monuments to the Lost Cause. The state allows municipalities to begin the removal process July 1. The administration is currently working on an ordinance that will be co-patroned by all members of council.
The mayor says he wants to ensure racial equity is a core component of city policies and practices.
“These issues are complex and have a deeply rooted, dark history. It’s going to take some compassion and it’s going to take a lot of conversation and a great amount of teamwork to create meaningful change in our city,” Stoney said.
The Mayor says he and City Council are committed to change, but adds issues with public safety and inequity does not have an easy or straight forward solution.
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