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North Carolina Deputy Chief Hired To Lead Richmond Police

Man behind mic
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney in a last-minute press conference Friday night. (Photo: Coleman Jennings/VPM News)

The city of Richmond has hired a new police chief out of North Carolina, 10 days after the mayor asked William “Jody” Blackwell to lead the department as an interim. Blackwell replaced ousted former-Chief William Smith, who resigned amid tense relations between the department and community members protesting police brutality.  

Blackwell faced immediate criticism when Mayor Levar Stoney chose him to lead the department temporarily starting June 16. Although a grand jury declined to indict him, concerns mounted about Blackwell’s history with the department, specifically, the shooting of a Black man in Richmond in 2002. 

On Friday, Stoney said he’d hired Gerald Smith as the permanent police chief. Smith is the current Deputy Police Chief for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

“We are looking forward to having Chief Gerald Smith with us, who is a reform-minded change agent, who I think is going to be able to bring the sort of reimagining of policing and public safety we need here in the great city of Richmond,” Stoney said at a press conference Friday night.

Stoney said he got help wading through potential candidates from previous Richmond police chiefs, including former Chief Alfred Durham. 

Stoney told reporters he informed Blackwell Friday afternoon that he’d selected a new permanent chief of police. 

In a letter to officers, however, Blackwell indicated he’d asked to return to his former position, adding he’d not been made aware of who would be appointed as the new interim chief.  

Stoney said he’ll introduce Smith at a press conference Saturday. Blackwell will remain interim chief until July 1 when Smith takes over and will go back to his position in the department as Major. 

Several lawsuits have been filed against the department in recent days over officers using crowd control weapons like tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters. The ACLU of Virginia sued the department in Richmond Circuit Court Friday, saying the use of less-than-lethal weapons on protesters violates their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly.  

Stoney said during the press conference Friday that the city will soon introduce new policies on the use of chemical irritants.