RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — William “Jody” Blackwell, the newly named interim Richmond police chief, stressed the importance of working with community members during times of unrest when he was officially introduced to the city Thursday.
Blackwell, a 22-year veteran of the department who most recently served as a major, was selected to be interim chief after former Richmond police chief, William Smith, was forced out by Mayor Levar Stoney following days of clashes between protesters and police.
“I am committed to the members of the Richmond Police Department to remain who I am and to lead by example. In the city, we are faced with some trying times,” Blackwell said. “Including the civil unrest at a level that many of us have not seen before. This is coupled by COVID-19, as we continue to focus on the health and welfare of our safety and families and communities.”
The department has faced criticism in recent weeks as protests erupted across the city against police brutality and racism in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Blackwell noted that those concerns would require the department to further strengthen community relationships.
“As interim chief of police, I recognize the challenges that we as a community have to face. I use the word ‘we’ because I know success is not possible without working together and assuring we maintain open and honest dialogue with respect,” Blackwell continued. “The strength of our city is truly being tested. We know, as a society, that we need to improve race relations, combat discrimination and racism.”
Stoney was scheduled to introduce Blackwell but he accepted a request “from a number of police officers who were in the lobby” for a meeting, police spokesperson Gene Lepley said.
“As law enforcement professionals, it is our responsibility to ensure we treat all citizens fairly and equally in all of our dealings. I am committed to maintaining our high levels of accountability, both within and outside our department. We are committed and invested to this community. We want to partner with our community to continue strengthen our relationships and continue to strengthen our city. And I look forward to serving each and every one of you,” Blackwell said at the end of his remarks.
WATCH: Full press conference with Richmond’s new interim police chief
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