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Richmond Police Reform Task Force Issues Final Report

Richmond Police officers standing near the J.E.B. Stuart statue during a protest this summer.
Richmond Police officers standing near the J.E.B. Stuart statue during a protest this summer. (Crixell Matthews/VPM)

Richmond’s Task Force on Reimagining Public Safety has released its final report with recommendations for incorporating more social services into policing.

The report backs some of the reforms demanded by Black Lives Matter protesters this summer, like a new system for mental health and civil disputes that would dispatch social service providers instead of officers. That program has been dubbed the Marcus Alert System after Marcus-David Peters, a Black man killed by Richmond Police in 2018. The Task Force also backed calls to take a look at the Richmond Police Department budget for areas that could be reallocated to social services.

After the final report was made public, Mayor Levar Stoney issued a statement saying his administration is committed to working on turning the recommendations into policy.

“Building the long-term, innovative, equitable public safety infrastructure envisioned in this report will take sustained effort, community engagement and education, but I have full faith that this community will come to the table to realize this vision,” Stoney said.

The 38-member task force, which included both community members and police and prosecutors, also made numerous recommendations for improving transparency and police interactions with the public. 

One suggestion was to create uniform business cards for officers that show how people can file complaints or compliments. They also recommended the Richmond Police Department website be overhauled to include “links to the entire RPD manual, use of force policies, reports and data, and community-led initiatives.”

Richmond’s Task Force on Reimagining Public Safety met twice monthly for three months, with sub-groups meeting weekly. The Use of Force Subgroup also held eight public listening sessions on policing. 

Among the notes from those meetings were community concerns about “ZIP code bias” or over-policing of poorer communities and minority neighborhoods. Data released in 2019 shows  Black Richmonders make up a disproportionately large number of police contacts.

“The youth participants were clearly aware of how their fellow Richmonders are treated in predominantly White neighborhoods, compared to Black and Brown communities,” the report said. “This observation correlates to how they feel about the physical conditions of their living environment and how a lack of equitable funding for programs and infrastructure inadvertently predisposes these areas to unfavorable stereotypes.”

Responding to the report, Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith highlighted the department’s recent re-accreditation by Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, but said the voice of the community is also vital. 

“We look forward to thoroughly evaluating these recommendations to enhance current practices and reimagine public safety with the community,” Smith said in a statement. 

The City of Richmond has already started the process of implementing two major policing reforms: the Marcus Alert system and a civilian review board for police misconduct. Richmond City Council approved the formation of an internal working group back in January that will shape how the system is implemented. The group consists of members from the Richmond Police Department, Department of Social Services and Department of Emergency Communications.

City Council also approved the formation of a Task Force on the Establishment of a Civilian Review Board, which will be expected to make a final report by March 2021. The full task force has yet to be seated, and  reform advocates have criticized City Council for nominating former law enforcement officials to serve on the task force.

You can read the full report from the Task Force on Reimagining Public Safety  here.


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