RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — During an online meeting among Richmond City Council members, Police Chief Gerald Smith said more police will be present on city streets, though he believes unrest in Richmond is reaching a “turning point.”
“The number of protesters are starting to go down, they do increase a little on the weekends from what they are telling me, but right now I believe it’s time for us to show our presence out there more,” Smith said during an organizational development standing committee meeting.
Smith’s comments followed concerns shared by City Councilperson Kim Gray over recent cited reports of vandalism, fireworks being shot-off, property damage and physical threats.
“What is the plan for restoring peace to this area?” Gray asked after referencing constituent emails on and around Monument Avenue; a hot spot for protest activity over previous weeks.
Smith said he has had discussions with senior police department leadership, and will work to address concerns along with city units including “parks and rec, the office of taxation, DPW (the department of public works).”
The newly appointed chief went on to dispel a concern that police officers have been instructed to back-off, as of late, when responding to recent protests.
“I think that we are still coming out of the shock of some of the civil, and that the officers themselves felt as though they did not want to start any other civil unrest,” he said. “Their view of having their hands tied or instructions coming from a higher source, that is not true. They are still the police and they still hold a duty to serve this community, and I believe that they will uphold that duty.”
Chief Smith noted he plans to visit every city council district to meet with residents to learn the lay of the land, and what issues specific communities may face.