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Mayor Stoney’s Public Safety Task Force Holds First Meeting

screenshot of video
Screenshot of tele-meeting.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s new “Task Force To Reimagine Public Safety” held its first meeting via Zoom last week. The meeting took place on Friday and was released to the public on Monday. 

Last month, Stoney announced the names of the 20-odd members of the advisory committee, which includes public defenders, prosecutors, law enforcement and community organizers. He’s asking the group to review use of force policies and explore alternative ways the city can respond to non-violent calls for service. 

The work of the task force began Friday with a presentation of the history of policing Black Americans. Richmond Police officials provided an overview of the department’s use of force policies and fielded questions about how it vets new hires. 

Deputy Police Chief Sydney Collier said it’s often difficult to spot bad actors during the hiring process. 

“It’s only time that their true self starts to come out and you see the discrepancies and then you have to weed them out,” Collier said. 

Dr. Shawn Utsey with the Department of African American Studies at VCU argued the answer doesn’t lie in the hiring process. 

“We always struggle with trying to get the right people on the force, but I think a bigger issue is the culture,” Utsey said. “That has to be addressed first.”

Utsey gave the  presentation on the history of police targeting of Black Americans.

“I think it’s important when thinking about policy, that folks don’t wring their hands, trying to understand why, ‘No matter what I say, no matter what I do, the community seems not to trust what we say,’” Utsey said. “There’s a historical context for that. And it makes perfect sense.”

Although the task force is a public body, city officials say it is advisory only, and therefore its meetings over the next 90 days are not required to be live streamed or include public comment.