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Richmond Police Chief Says Department Needs More Funding, Not Less

Chief Smith talks to reporters.
Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith talks to reporters on Monday. Smith rebuffed calls by protesters to "defund" the department.

Richmond’s new police chief met with reporters on Monday to field questions about the future of the department as racial justice advocates in Richmond and across the country are asking the public to cut police budgets and reinvest in  education, housing, and social services.  

But Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith said the department cannot be successful with less funding. 

“When we start talking about defund the police, that’s the wrong question,” Smith said. "That’s the wrong issue that we should be looking at. We should be seeking to fund that change that we’re looking for.”

Smith says the economic downturn of 2008 diluted policing budgets across the country, which caused departments to pull back on community policing efforts.   

Richmond’s police budget dipped slightly following the Great Recession but has actually increased by more than $17 million over the last decade.  

Protesters say they won’t stop demonstrations until they get the reforms they’re asking for.  The Richmond City Council is expected to vote on some of their proposals later this month, including a civilian review board. 

Smith said he’s supportive of giving that board subpoena power, the legal authority to force witnesses to cooperate in an investigation. 

He said the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, where he worked previously, had a civilian review board, but it did not have subpoena power. Smith said that was frustrating for everyone.  

“Subpoena powers for civilian review boards is something that goes both ways,” Smith said. “It helps the officer and it helps everyone get the bigger picture of what exactly took place and what type of action, if any, should take place.”

Mayor Levar Stoney has already committed to creating a citizen’s review board with subpoena power in Richmond.

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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