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‘We’re going to get this city back’: Interim RPD Chief Frustrated With Protests

Interim Chief of Police William Blackwell
Interim Chief of Police William Blackwell only took questions from two reporters before cutting short a press announcement that was supposed to include Mayor Levar Stoney. Stoney, in a sudden meeting with individual police, did not make an appearance until after. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

The Richmond Police Department held a press conference Thursday to introduce interim Chief of Police William “Jody” Blackwell.

Mayor Levar Stoney was supposed to introduce Blackwell to reporters. Instead, RPD Spokesperson Gene Lepley introduced the new interim chief of police, who gave brief remarks before joining Stoney and other officers for a private meeting. Stoney never took to the podium.

Lepley said the mayor was in a last-minute meeting with police. “The mayor is here, and has accepted a request by a number of police officers who are in the lobby to meet with him, so they’re doing that now,” Lepley said.

During his remarks, Blackwell said he was frustrated with the protests.

“None of us, not one police officer, not one community member, asked for what we’re going through right now,” Blackwell said. “From our officers, every decision has been a bad decision. It’s a double-edged sword. It frustrates me to no end. I have some of the greatest men and women employed with the Richmond Police Department and they stand judged by people who refuse to even sit down and talk to us civilly.” 

Some off-duty officers attended the event wearing black shirts with a blue line running through the phrase “I stand with 2140” -- that number representing the badge number for former Chief of Police William Smith. The thin blue line was a phrase used by a 1950s’ Los Angeles police chief, William H. Parker, to describe the police as a final line of defense against communists, progressive politicians, and racial and ethnic minorities.

“My love for this city and my love for these men and women, it will not cause me a challenge as far as reacting,” Blackwell said. “And we’re gonna get this city back. It’s amazing to see them stand up and I can’t talk about them enough. We didn't ask for any of this, including me being here, but we’re gonna make do with what we’ve got and we’re gonna continue to push forward.”

police
Off-duty officers wear "thin blue line" shirts in support of ousted chief of police, William Smith. Mayor Stoney asked Smith to resign after incidents including a police attack the department apologized for as "unwarranted." (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Blackwell only took a total of three questions before abruptly ending the short press briefing, after which he was met with applause from off-duty officers in the room.

The first question was if Blackwell had any use of force or disciplinary actions on his background. He said he did, but that he didn’t see “how that’s relevant to what we’re here for today, so I’m not going to go any deeper on that question.”

In a follow up, the reporter asked if he could comment on a 2002 officer-involved shooting incident Blackwell was involved in. He refused to comment.

After his private meeting with officers concluded, Stoney walked out and spoke with reporters. He said morale is low among RPD officers and expressed confidence in Blackwell as the interim chief of police. When the mayor was asked if he himself would resign, he said no.