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Stoney Names Members of New Public Safety Task Force

man at podium
At a briefing earlier today, Mayor Levar Stoney announced a task force to tackle police reform. (Photo: Whittney Evans/VPM News)

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has announced the 20 people who will sit on his newly formed Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety. The task force will spend the next 45 days brainstorming recommendations.

The group includes city council members Mike Jones and Ellen Robertson, a handful of community organizers, academics and researchers as well as three law enforcement representatives and Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin.

Stoney said in a press conference Friday that the purpose of the task force isn’t to just meet and talk. 

“It’s to develop a plan of action that we can begin to implement as soon as possible because this moment necessitates urgent change,” he said.

The mayor is asking the group to review the Richmond Police Department’s use of force policies and explore alternative ways the city can respond to non-violent calls for service in the city.

“We can look back at the data here in the city and know that when you look at calls for service, who is actually calling 911, the Richmond Police Department. Then we can look at how the police department is responding to those calls as well. As I said earlier, not every call should always end up with a consequence. We should bring compassion to what we're doing,” Stoney said.

One member of the task force, Triston Harris who organized the 5,000 Man March Against Racism in June, says his priority will be ensuring police accountability. He says he’s ready to get started, but says there are a lot of faces missing from the group. 

“There are a lot of Black and Brown people on the task force but I would like to see, more or less,  more people that are actually in the streets,” he says “as well as some of these experts because they do offer a level of expertise that we do need to see from that lens.”

Chelsea Higgs Wise with Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project, a local law enforcement watchdog group, isn’t happy with the makeup of the task force or the short amount of time they’ve been given to come up with solutions.

“It also goes back to the mayor continuing to appoint people to advise him, when we know that certain voices that have been pushing him for transformation are not in the room,” she says. “But we're also seeing the people that we are protesting, like the Commonwealth Attorney [Colette] McEachin is invited in the room.”

Most of the members on the task force volunteered to be part of the group, Stoney said.

Higgs Wise added the group needs more time to dig into policing data, educate the community and then decide what the city wants.

Stoney says the meetings of the task force will be open to the public whether they take place in public or virtually. The first meeting of the task force has not been scheduled, and the mayor said he does not know yet how often the group will meet.