My response to the call for justice

We need Accountability, Transparency, and Action

Last night I watched my city burn. I watched as a protest for racial equity and justice turned into destruction. Buildings were broken into and some lit on fire. Businesses were looted and trashed. Public unrest due to the continued evidence of racial inequality occurred all across this country. Racial inequality that is not new and has been evident through many generations. An inequality that must be addressed with action, no longer simply reacted to. However, violence, destruction, and death is not the path to resolution or justice. I hear the voice, cries, and calls for action from the protesters for justice in the killing of George Floyd and the many other African Americans murdered at the hands of police officers.

I stand in solidarity with the African American community in Richmond, in Virginia, and across this country. I have watched what I hope is the last murder of an African American at the hands of police officers. Years of incremental change in the practices and operation of police officers in response to past egregious behavior is not enough. We need significant change and improvements in the public safety system to equally protect the lives of African Americans. I cannot change the behaviors and actions of other police departments, but I can make sure we see the accountability and transparency in the Richmond Police Department. Over the past couple days I have had many conversations with city and community leaders about this horrific tragedy. People are angered by a system that is broken, does not protect equally, and has not improved. It has not only failed to protect basic human rights, but has shown engrained racism and bias protected by position and authority. We must act now to create the accountability, transparency, and change needed to rebuild the system of public safety. One that we can trust is equitable, inclusive, and empathetic.

To build and increase the accountability, transparency, and the change needed in our Police Department, I am committed to the following priorities:

  1. The transparent and open review of the training and policies used for Richmond police officers. I learned that the Minneapolis PD has a policy for conscious and unconscious neck hold for suspects. The one that was used in the murder of George Floyd. Chief Smith stated that this practice was removed many years ago and that Richmond officers are not trained to use such force. This and other changes to our policies and training for Police officers need to not only happen, but be shared publicly.
  2. Requirement of police officers to intervene in any situation where another officer’s abuse of power is threatening a person’s life. Police officers need to intervene when emotions, anger, or frustration become evident in each other. This protects the integrity of the police department but ultimately reinforces the respect for everyone.
  3. To empower and protect police officers to anonymously report other officers for observed actions, behavior, or words that are threatening, abusive, or racism in any manner. All who wear the badge are subject to the actions of one “bad apple” and the officers that uphold the values we demand from this position must be empowered to protect those they serve from unacceptable behavior of one. Any cause for concern should be taken seriously, investigated, and resolved transparently.
  4. Increasing citizen representation on all officer and police review boards. Empowering the public to have a seat at the table in the analysis and decisions made on the actions of officers.
  5. Community Policing Model where the officers are out of their vehicles and in the community on foot or on a bike. Face-to-face interaction in a consistent and intentional manner. Building relationships between police officers and the communities they protect requires a public recognition of racial biases and a commitment to collaboration as we reconcile hundreds of years of oppression as a community.

Richmond needs a regularly held public conversation about these items and others that I might have overlooked, that create the transparent accountability we need to see in the system. Public conversations with city leaders, police leadership, community leaders, and other citizen groups focused on dialogue that outlines values of equity, inclusion, and change. In order to create the equity and justice needed in our police department, we need this and more levels of transparency and accountability. I am committed to work with my fellow City Council members, the Mayor, the Police Department, and most importantly, the people of Richmond, to make these efforts happen. Together, we must assure that our Police Department is an anti-racist department that protects everyone and believes that Black Lives Matter.

Recovering bureaucrat. Pioneered as Civic Innovator. Now serving a second term on City Council in Richmond, VA. Words are my own.