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First Day for New Henrico Police Chief Promising Reform

Man at podium
Newly-appointed Henrico County Police Chief Eric English speaking at a press conference last month. (Photo: Henrico County)

Eric English has spent the last two years as the police chief in Harrisonburg, but he got his start in Richmond, where he rose from the rank of patrol officer up to deputy chief.

On Monday, English enters his new role heading Henrico Police amid calls from the public for increased transparency and accountability in law enforcement. Those calls aren’t falling on deaf ears. English, who is a Black man, told partner station WMRA in Harrisonburg that he understands the “discontent” many have with current models of policing and is ready to respond.

“That’s one of the reasons I stay in this business: I know I have an opportunity to make positive change in this profession and get this profession to the point where I want it to look like,” he said. “I tell all folks that are coming into law enforcement now, ‘We have a prime opportunity to have this profession look like what we want law enforcement to look like.’”

In Harrisonburg, English led the effort to make more data on arrests and use-of-force publicly available. He also instituted a ‘duty to intervene’ policy, meaning officers must step in if they see a colleague using excessive force or breaking the law. 

Bringing increased transparency and diversifying the police force will also be a big focus of his work here in Henrico, English said.

“I think if you’re trying to build trust and legitimacy in your agency, and you’re trying to build partnerships and bring down barriers with your community, we can no longer be so protective of information within our organization,” he said. “Most of what we do is not a secret anyway.”

English is joining the Henrico Police Department as county officials weigh whether to create a civilian review board for police misconduct. He told WTVR that he plans to be a part of that conversation.

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