RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — More than five months after then-Chief of Police Gerald Smith resigned from his post with the Richmond Police Department (RPD), the city has posted its opening for the role.
Then-Acting Major Rick Edwards has been serving as Acting Chief since the end of October 2022, when Smith announced his resignation. Edwards became RPD’s fourth police chief in just two years, after former Chief William Smith was forced out, William “Jody” Blackwell briefly stepped into the role in an interim capacity, former Chief Gerald Smith resigned, and Edwards was appointed.
Serving Richmond through challenges
“We need someone that is well-qualified for the position to lead us forward, and we’re in dire straits right now,” Richmond Coalition of Police (RCOP) President Brendan Leavy told 8News on Friday. “Just because we have an interim chief, we’re going to have a new police chief, it doesn’t stop the fact that we’re doing 160 police officers.”
In December, RCOP Vice President told 8News that there had been noticeable improvements in the department since Acting Chief Edwards took over, especially in terms of communication. Leavy said Friday that that has continued.
“Every single time RCOP has requested a meeting, he has fulfilled that request. So, it’s a lot different than his predecessor,” Leavy said. “He gets a real understanding of how we are; where we’re coming from.”
But some challenges remain.
“Having the excuse of, ‘It’s a nationwide shortage,’ needs to stop. You know, our neighbors to the south are basically fully staffed. So, we need to look in our own backyard of how we can really revamp retention and recruiting,” Leavy said. “We’re going to be negotiating about policies and changes throughout the police department, good changes, that it’s important that the police chief is open to that, and that we have that open line of communication that we will now actually have a say in every single policy change throughout the police department.”
That’s why Leavy said he hopes the city will include RCOP as it moves forward with its search.
How much will it cost?
In an announcement of the Chief of Police position’s posting on Thursday, a city spokesperson noted that “the posting will remain open until filled.” Office of Strategic Communications and Civic Engagement Director Petula Burks also said that the city was working with POLIHIRE to conduct the search.
According to its website, the firm specializes in recruiting executive-level leadership for public service roles, and has been doing so for 16 years.
In July 2022, POLIHIRE was employed by the City of Charlottesville to assist in the search of its police chief. According to the announcement of that partnership from the City of Charlottesville government offices, the cost of the contract was $35,000, “plus an a la carte of services that the City could acquire for a fixed cost basis per additional service,” indicating that the process could “take up to 120 days.” Questions about the cost of POLIHIRE’s contract with the City of Richmond to fill RPD’s top leadership role have gone unanswered.
How does the salary compare?
The post for RPD’s next Chief of Police noted that the salary will range from $155,234 to $247,986. Security consultant and former police chief Mike Jones said that the amount listed is in line with current Chief of Police salaries in the Commonwealth, but that those in the northern part of the state would be higher.
According to watchdog website GovSalaries, localities with similar population sizes to the City of Richmond fall within the range listed for RPD’s next top cop.
- City of Chesapeake – $169,784 (2021)
- City of Newport News – $196,211 (2021)
- Arlington County – $226,653 (2022)
- City of Norfolk – $184, 591 (2021)
In the nearby localities of Henrico and Chesterfield County, GovSalaries reported that the police chiefs made an annual salary of $202,708 and $208,042, respectively, in 2022.
Will Acting Chief Edwards stay in the role?
“We would like to be involved in the selection process, choosing the next Chief of Police,” Leavy said of Richmond’s search. “I’m glad the city has taken their time and I think it’s going to be a well-thought-out process and we’re just going to be here to help every step of the way and be involved as we can.”
But Leavy said Edwards had not expressed to him whether he was interested in serving as Chief of Police in a more permanent capacity.
In December, Edwards told 8News that he would make the decision on whether to apply once the position was posted. Now that the position is open and accepting applicants, 8News’ requests to speak with the interim chief have been declined.
“While I’m in that chair, whether it’s three more weeks or three more years, it’s to set those clear expectations,” Edwards said back in December.