Richmond police chief forced out after weeks of protests across the city

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Mayor Levar Stoney announced William Smith has resigned from his post as Richmond’s Police Chief at a press conference on Tuesday.

This announcement came after multiple clashes between RPD officers and protesters over the last few weeks.

“As of this morning, I requested Chief Smith’s resignation, and he has tendered it,” Stoney said.

Smith was with the RPD for 23 years and was nearing his one year anniversary as the city’s police chief.

“Let me take a minute to say, Chief Smith is a good man, he has served this city for a very long time,” Stoney said. “He has put his heart and soul into the service of this police department and the city and I thank him for his service.” 

Jody Blackwell, interim  Chief of the Richmond Police Department
Jody Blackwell, interim Chief of the Richmond Police Department

However, the mayor added it was time for Richmond to move in another direction.

“One thing is clear after the past few weeks, Richmond is ready for a new approach to public safety,” Stoney said.

Smith was not in attendance at the press conference.

Stoney named Captain Jody Blackwell as the interim Chief of the RPD. Blackwell has been with the department for 22 years.

“Interim Chief Blackwell is willing and able to focus on the necessary public safety reforms. He will lead our healing and trust-building within our community,” Stoney said.

8News received images and videos of officers in riot gear appearing to fire tear gas and smoke canisters at the crowd on Monday night. Some protesters say they were hit with rubber bullets.

Also that day, a 22-year-old woman was arrested on felony charges after protests Sunday night and a Richmond Police cruiser appeared to hit a few protesters Saturday.

Richmond Police Chief William C. Smith said in a statement that protesters were not peaceful Sunday night and “Organizers were intent on provocation and creating mayhem by throwing rocks and other objects at the officers on duty, who showed great restraint in response to these attacks.”

At a press conference earlier today, Gov. Ralph Northam said he had seen videos of these incidents going around and that officials would be taking a look at them.

The ACLU of Virginia, Southerners on New Ground and Richmond for All sent a letter to Richmond Police Chief William Smith, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and Richmond City Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin about the last few weeks of protests.

In their letter, the groups said they were concerned about the RPD’s use of violence against protesters. They specifically cited Saturday night’s SUV incident and June 1, when tear gas was deployed on peaceful protesters.

Councilwoman Kim Gray, the city’s 2nd District representative who is also planning a run for mayor, released a statement on Smith’s departure.

People in my district and throughout the City have asked me repeatedly for three weeks why there is no end to the violence in their neighborhoods. The looting, fires and roadblocks need to stop immediately.

It now seems that the potential for further confrontation this weekend is very real and very concerning. I pray for our City’s future and for everyone’s safety in these trying times.

In the short run, I pledge to work with Interim Chief Blackwell and the Richmond Police Department to help ensure public safety this weekend and beyond, until the violence ends.”

For the long term, I will work with RPD, City Council, the city administration and members of the public to develop and implement essential police reforms.”

Richmond City Councilwoman Kim Gray

WATCH: Tuesday’s full press conference with Mayor Stoney, city officials

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