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Richmond Public Safety Task Force Releases Initial Report

Stoney speaking at podium
Mayor Levar Stoney's police reform task force has announced its first slate of recommendations. (2019 File Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM)

A task force convened by Mayor Levar Stoney in response to racial justice protesters’ demands has released an initial report.

The recommendations were provided by three sub-groups of the task force focused on use of force, community engagement and a human service. Their findings were detailed in a report the city says was presented to Stoney on Wednesday.

Among the recommendations from the use of force sub-group were to “humanize” Richmond Police’s use of force policy by emphasizing de-escalation up front and including a values statement.

Sheba Williams, the sub-group co-chair, also emphasized the need for an anonymous complaint system and making body cam policies available to the public.

“It is very difficult to make a complaint and expect that complaint to be fairly and justly adjudicated by police,” Williams said.

The community engagement sub-group recommendations were mostly focused on asking police to utilize community listening sessions to build trust and accountability. They provided a detailed list of community groups that could facilitate “community conferencing circles” for conflict resolution and reducing gun violence.

The top recommendation from the sub-group on calls for service echoed the demands of protesters to have mental health professionals or social workers respond to some incidents, also known as a Marcus Alert System. The sub-group recommended creating a new system to route calls for things like mental health crises and substance abuse to more appropriate community groups or social services.

“We can’t think of public safety as just police officers,” sub-group co-chair Torey Edmonds said in a statement. “We must tap into the community assets we have.”

The first public meeting of the Task Force for Reimagining Public Safety was on August 7 and they have met every two weeks since then. A final report is expected to be released on November 5.

You can find the full report of initial findings and recommendations here.