RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond Police Department created a special committee to help improve the relationship between its’ officers and the community. 8News is learning more about some of the members selected to be apart of the newly formed group.
Since taking on the role of Richmond’s top cop, Chief Gerald Smith has vowed to always listen to community concerns.
“We want to make this department better than what it was, so I am listening right now; let’s have a conversation,” said Smith while being introduced as the new chief earlier this year.
In an effort to build trust and improve transparency, Chief Smith introduced a new initiative. In October, RPD formed an External Advisory Committee with a goal of building better communication and opening up dialogue between residents and officers. However, at the same time, the committee will allow officers to learn more about the communities they serve.
In a social media post, RPD wrote:
Richmond Police Department
“The committee structure provides a means for the police to learn about neighborhood complaints, concerns, ideas and crime trends evolving in the community. Similarly, the committee provides a format in which the department can inform residents about current thinking and share some of the strategies of our local law enforcement professionals in the RPD.”
Although the committee was formed in October, the department did not release the identity of its members until last week, on November 16. A total of twenty-two people are on the committee, including community advocate and radio host Clovia Lawrence, Richmond pastors Robert Winfree and Dwayne Whitehead, Vilma Seymour with League of United Latin American Citizens, former NFL player Tim Hightower, and Toni Jacobs.
“When I went to the police station and reported her missing it was like he didn’t believe me,” Jacobs shared. “He was like, how do you know she’s missing? Because I’m her mother. There was no empathy.”
Jacobs says she felt RPD initially mishandled parts of her daughter’s missing persons case, however over the past four years she has turned her frustration into activism. She says she has bee able to rebuild her trust in Richmond’s Police Department and wants to lead by example.
“It took time for me to build that relationship,” said Jacobs. “With my platform that I have with my missing persons foundation and being able to communicate with young people, I think I will be able to answer questions about police procedures and policies.”
Jacobs says although the committee is new, they are hitting the ground running. Members are meeting virtually every Tuesday and Thursday. Jacobs shares their discussions have included city violence, recent riots, and tear gassing policies.
“They was like we want your honest opinion,” Jacob told 8News. “If we did something wrong tell us we did something wrong. I’m like I don’t have no problem doing that.”
Another goal of the committee is to enhance community policing. Jacobs told 8News that, ‘we need to get our communitites back and under control’. She says one big responsibility she will take on is learning how the department’s policies currently work, review them, make recommendations, and teach residents how to properly get their message across.
8News did reach out to Richmond Police to learn more about the vetting process for the committee and how exactly the twenty-two members were selected, but did not get a response. However, Jacobs shared she had to submit a resume and explain her community engagements.
Below is a full list of members on the External Advisory Committee:
- Gwendolyn Andrews
- Dantae Burritcher
- Kameron Corprew
- Naomi Davis
- Tim Hightower
- Toni Jacobs
- Butch Johnson
- Clovia Lawrence
- Tia Meeks
- Tevin Moore
- Johnny Newman
- Charlene Pitchford
- Ralph Reyolds
- Lawrence Robinson
- Vilma Seymour
- Abin Thomas
- Robert Viney
- Dwayne Whitehead
- Marti Williams
- Tiont Williams
- Robert Winfree
- Hollie Woodruff
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