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Edwards to become permanent Richmond police chief

Interim Chief of Police Rick Edwards is seen in front of a the seal of Richmond
Shaban Athuman
VPM News File
Rick Edwards, shown here at a Richmond City Council Public Safety Standing Committee meeting in July, was July 19, 2023.

The RPD officer has served in an interim capacity since October.

Acting Chief Rick Edwards will be sworn in as Richmond’s new police chief on Monday, the city said in a Wednesday press release.

Edwards will be at least the fourth person to lead the department since protests criticizing race and policing began in 2020, eventually leading to the ouster of Chief William Smith. The city characterized Edwards’ tenure since his October 2022 appointment as interim chief as working “tirelessly to re-establish trust both within the department and the community.”

Edwards came into the position following a crisis in public trust. In July 2022, then-Chief Gerald Smith said RPD had thwarted a mass shooting plot at the Dogwood Dell amphitheater. But communications reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch showed Smith was told the location was unknown. The two men arrested in the plot Smith alleged were not prosecuted on charges related to an alleged shooting.

According to city officials, Smith resigned. In a press conference, Stoney denied that he played any role in hiring or firing police officers, but that contradicted previous statements Stoney made.

Stoney praised Edwards over his tenure. In June, while stumping for a development centered around a casino, the mayor responded to a resident asking why he hadn’t hired Edwards for the job.

“I think the chief has done a great job. Particularly this week, he has done a great job,” Stoney said in the wake of a shooting at the Huguenot High School graduation. “In government, there's a process, and I want the process to play itself out.”

Edwards focused on management rather than trust issues in his press statement.

“I am honored to be selected as the new police chief for The City of Richmond,” Edwards said in the release. “Our goal will be to continue to make the city a safe place for our residents and visitors. I am committed to leading an efficient, well-managed department that is rooted in service to the Richmond community.”

Edwards will have several challenges, including more relating to trust in police and race relations, as he takes the helm of RPD.

City Council approved an ordinance to create a Civilian Review Board in October, which would have an advisory role rather than having regulatory power as had been hoped for.

Other challenges beyond trust in police and race relations are in front of Edwards from the get-go.

Police officers recently voted to have the Richmond Coalition of Police enter union contract negotiations with the city.

“RCOP looks forward to working with the new Chief in making the agency equitable and fair for our officers while developing better community relations. As with any Chief, RCOP will hold him to high standards and work together toward progress,” Carl Scott, vice president of RCOP, said in the release.

The department is also staffed significantly below funded levels. In December, a city spokesperson told VPM News that the Richmond Police Department had funding for 724 sworn officers and 107.5 non-sworn — but only had 614 sworn officers. At the time, an RPD spokesperson said there were 149 vacancies.

Edwards also may oversee the implementation and development of extensive surveillance technology. City Council approved accepting $750,000 in funds for a Real Time Crime Center, which typically consolidates existing surveillance technology and sometimes allows for camera-sharing agreements between government and private entities.

Jahd Khalil covers Virginia state politics for VPM News.