by Brandon Jarvis, cross posted from Medium
Richmond’s new interim Police Chief, Jody Blackwell, spoke briefly but passionately today to reporters. Blackwell was tapped to be the interim-Chief on Tuesday after former Chief William Smith tendered his resignation at the request of Mayor Levar Stoney. Several nights of protests where police tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, and fired rubber bullets into the crowd preceded that resignation request.
Today’s conference began with a prepared statement where Blackwell said he is committed to remaining who he is and that he will lead by example. He also said that the recent events in Richmond have been a level of “civil unrest” that many people have not seen before.
He made it clear that he is aware of the challenges before him as tensions are high. “As interim Chief of Police, I recognize the challenges that we as a community have to face. I used the word ‘we’ because I know that success is not possible without working together, ensuring we maintain open and honest dialogue with respect.” said Blackwell. “As law enforcement professionals, it is our responsibility to ensure we treat all citizens fairly and equally in all of our dealings”
Chief Blackwell’s statement was brief and mostly positive, but after beginning to walk away from the podium, he turned back to answer questions – although he only gave a response to one question before ending the conference.
When Chief Blackwell was asked about the morale in the police department right now, he spoke passionately. ”We all share the same frustrations, none of us, not one police officer, not one community member asked for what we are going through right now. For my officers, every decision has been a bad decision, it’s a double-edged sword. It frustrates me to no end. I have some of the greatest men and women employed with the Richmond Police Department and they stand judged by people who refuse, REFUSE to even sit down and talk to us civilly. so I have tremendous frustration. morale from where I stand, I have more support than I ever thought was possible. Not only in my guys here but as well as the community, which I know we haven’t lost them. So the frustrations are there and we as a community have to step up and take our city back, because too many sit in silence, and I hear fear, I’m afraid, however, my love for this city and my love for these men and women, it will not cause me a challenge as far as reacting — and we are going to get the city back. It’s amazing to see them stand up and I can’t talk about them enough. We didn’t ask for any of this, including me being here. But we are going to make do with what we got and we are going to continue to push forward.”
Chief Blackwell received a standing ovation from police officers in the room after completing that response.
Alli Rockett from the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that members of Richmond Police Department who support the ousted former-Chief Will Smith are meeting with Mayor Levar Stoney. Mayor Stoney is expected to meet with the media later today.