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Richmond Mayor Presents Road Map For Public Safety Reform

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney speaking at a gun violence rally
FILE PHOTO: Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney speaking at a gun violence rally in 2019. (Crixell Matthews/VPM)

In a presentation to Richmond City Council on Monday afternoon, Mayor Levar Stoney threw his support behind numerous demands from Black Lives Matter protesters. 

Stoney presented what he calls a “Road Map for Reimagining Public Safety” in Richmond. The road map is a list of proposals to begin addressing police reform in the city. Included in his plan, is the creation of a civilian review board for police misconduct and a new system for ensuring that mental health professionals respond to suspected mental health crises alongside police, known as a Marcus Alert

Stoney also proposed that the City Council create a 20-member Task Force for Reimagining Public Safety made up of academics, activists and police.

“These issues are complex and have a deeply rooted and dark history,” Stoney said. “It’s going to take some compassion, it’s going to take a lot of conversation and a great amount of teamwork to create meaningful change in our city moving forward.” 

The task force will also be asked to do a full review of the Richmond Police Department’s use of force guidelines, which is part of former President Barack Obama’s pledge for mayors that Stoney signed. 

In addition to examining use-of-force guidelines, he said there will be updates to policies banning chokeholds and establishing a duty to intervene. The duty to intervene creates a legal and moral obligation for officers to step in if a colleague is doing something wrong or using excessive force. 

Stoney committed to creating a civilian review board that would investigate police use of force and misconduct. He said his administration will hold two public meetings to inform the board and encouraged city council to hold two others. 

Following the presentation, council members asked questions related to the road map Stoney laid out. 

Councilman Michael Jones urged Stoney to commit to banning the use of chemical agents and rubber bullets against protesters. The night before, police used chemical agents to disperse a group they said was attempting to pull down the J.E.B. Stuart statue on Monument Avenue. 

Stoney refused to commit to the ban, saying that he believes chemical agents should be used as a last resort.

“I can defer to those at the Richmond Police Department, but that should be only a last resort,” he said.

In an interview following the meeting, Jones told VPM that a resolution calling for a ban on a militarized response to protests would be part of a package of legislation he and Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch plan to introduce soon. 

He described Stoney’s road map as useful but “macro,” and said that the City Council should address things like establishing a civilian review board and addressing police militarization more immediately. 

“We need to move as expeditiously as we can, without moving in haste,” Jones said. “We just need to move with some dispatch. That’s all.”

Councilwoman Kim Gray, who represents a district that contains most of the Confederate statues along Monument Avenue, voiced concerns over how the protests are affecting homeowners and others who live nearby. 

“In my district in particular, I’m getting bombarded with phone calls and questions about when people will be able to feel safe within their own communities and drive to their homes safely and not have someone block them from being able to traverse the roadways,” Gray said.

Stoney said he was working with state partners to ensure safety along the Monument Avenue corridor. Shortly after his presentation, Richmond Police and Virginia State Police issued a joint statement saying they will close the Robert E. Lee monument to visitors after dusk. 

The monument has become a rallying point for protests over the past few weeks and has been graffitied extensively with anti-police brutality messages.