(WRIC) — A national expert on police procedures and use of force has questions for the supervisors in charge after viewing video of the Richmond protesters hit with tear gas Monday night.
Timothy T. Williams Jr., a retired Los Angeles Police Department detective with nearly 30 years in active law enforcement, told 8News he sees a supervisory problem after looking at video of the incident.
It all started 30 minutes before the 8 p.m. curfew Monday. A peaceful group of protesters had gathered around the Robert E. Lee monument. Then, suddenly tear gas is launched at the crowd. Drone video shared with 8News shows, what appears to be a police escorted pick- up truck, pull up. As it arrives, tear gas is deployed. Something also appears to be thrown toward the officers as more tear gas is aimed at an otherwise peaceful group.
“My position is, if officers are that sensitive, they need to find another job, that’s not the job for them,” Williams said.
Over the past few nights, some protests in Richmond have turned into riots leading to vandalism and looting. However, Williams who is a consultant and has authored the book, “A Deep Dive: An Expert Analysis of Police Procedure, Use of Force, and Wrongful Convictions,” says that’s no excuse for what happened. He says officers are trained to appropriately handle these types of situations.
“They weren’t breaking any laws that I observed and they should have left them alone,” he says about the crowd of protesters.
The retired officer says he would have questions for the sergeant and the incident commander in charge of the Richmond officers at the scene.
“These are officers who weren’t supervised, weren’t given direction and weren’t given instruction on what to do,” he said.
Williams’ adds he would want to know what was going on out there?
“Why is there breakdown of communication, happening to the point where officers were acting as individuals, doing their own thing, at their own time?” he asks
Richmond’s Police Chief Will Smith has apologized telling a crowd of angry citizens outside City Hall, “we make mistakes.”
Still, some in the crowd called for his resignation.
Williams, who has analyzed and testified in hundreds of use of force and wrongful conviction cases, says there must be accountability.
“The bottom line everything falls at the Chief’s feet,” Williams says.
As for how does Richmond and the surrounding counties heal and prevent injustice? Williams says it starts with the hiring process. According to Williams, departments and communities need to look at how individuals are processed through the system when they apply for officer jobs. He says usually, its retired officers doing background check investigations for new hires.
“I call them gatekeepers,” he said. “They bring in the same mentality that we see in law enforcement, so we will never see a change there, so you are repeating those issues over and over again.”
Williams also says law enforcement needs to remember they are there to serve the community, the community doesn’t serve them. The community pays their salaries and they have to do constitutional policing.
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