RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond’s new acting police chief said he is hoping to provide stability amid this time of transition, speaking with 8News Thursday at a community trunk-or-treat event, two days after then-Chief Gerald Smith announced his resignation.
“They always see us when there’s a tragedy going on,” Acting Chief Richard ‘Rick’ Edwards said. “But it’s important for us to be out here with the community when we can just have a fun event, people get to know our names, we get to know their names, and it’s beneficial on both parts.”
Edwards, a 23-year veteran of the department, went from acting major to acting chief within a matter of days.
“My goal is to stabilize things and be there for the officers and for our community,” Edwards said, “and make sure that we’re progressing while we’re conducting a national search for our next chief of police.”
Security consultant Mike Jones — who has served as chief of police in other departments — said the national search for a new chief should include those already in Richmond.
“You enforce the law with fairness, with no discrimination, and with no use of excessive force and you make sure that you lead by example,” Jones said. “You know your officers, you get out on the street with them and you become visible. That’s the example of leadership that’s needed.”
Jones noted that the acting chief is facing an uphill battle, with the department facing surges in violence and approximately 150 police officer vacancies.
“Now’s not the time for a learning curve,” Jones said. “When someone comes into the city of Richmond, they’re going to have a learning curve, and they’re going to need a lot of people in the ranks that serve underneath them to sit down with them and say, ‘This is what you are walking into.'”
According to Jones, being an acting chief is particularly challenging because the length of tenure is uncertain and the time to make decisions is unclear.
In 2021, the Richmond Coalition of Police (RCOP), a local police union, surveyed Richmond Police officers and found Smith had a low-approval rating and many officers had lost confidence in Smith’s ability to lead the department. RCOP was set to release the results of their most recent survey in the next day or so.
In light of Smith’s resignation, however, RCOP said they will no longer be releasing those results publicly. However, the union president, Brendan Leavy, told 8News that Smith’s approval rating was largely unchanged from the 2021 survey.
When 8News asked Edwards whether or not he would be applying for the permanent role, he gave no definitive answer.
“I haven’t had time to think on that,” he said. “But that’ll come. There’s plenty of time to consider that.”