RPDmakes public names of advisory panel’s members
Chief initially said some might not want to be known
The Richmond Police Department publicly identified the members of its new community advisory committee this week, more than one month after the chief announced he had established the panel to forge greater trust between the department and city residents.
Last month, Police Chief Gerald Smith had declined to name all but one of the members of his new External Advisory Committee, despite widespread calls in Richmond and nationwide for greater police transparency and accountability. In the wake of civil unrest in Richmond and many other cities this year, Smith had said initially that some members of the committee would not want to be identified because they could face harassment by those who would condemn them for cooperating with the police.
This week, however, the department publicly released a list of the committee’s 22 members on
social media after receiving their permission. The list includes residents of the Richmond metro area, faith leaders, members of the business community and two students at Virginia Union University.
One of the committee’s members, Toni Jacobs, founded the Missing Persons Day rally, which she and the
RPD have hosted for several years to bring attention to the issue and build a support network for families who are missing loved ones.
Jacobs’ daughter, Keeshae Jacobs, was last seen Sept. 26, 2016, and police have said they suspect foul play in her disappearance. Less than four months after her daughter’s disappearance, Toni Jacobs’ son, Deavon, was murdered in South Richmond.
Jacobs said she initially did not appreciate the way the police handled the report of her daughter’s disappearance, asking her questions in a way that made her feel like they didn’t believe a crime had occurred.
Because of her active engagement in the community, a lot of young people look to her for leadership, Jacobs said. By learning more about police policies as a member of the External Advisory Committee, she hopes to clear up misconceptions in the community about how officers do their jobs.
“I feel like if this is going to work, it’s going to have to bridge that gap between the police and the community,” she said.
Smith announced the creation of the committee as a structure for the police to learn about neighborhood complaints, concerns and crime trends evolving in the community, and as a format for the department to inform residents about its thinking and law enforcement strategies.
The advisory committee, which will meet monthly with police officials, is focused on three primary issues: community involvement, officer recruitment and transparency.
Charlene Pitchford, a resident of Gilpin Court and treasurer of the Gilpin Tenant Council, said she joined the External Advisory Committee because she is an active member of her neighborhood and has concerns about how the police treat residents.
“We’ve got some good police who are doing the things that they’re supposed to be doing,” Pitchford said. But if a resident comes to the Gilpin Tenant Council with a concern about an officer, Pitchford now will have the resources to look at the policy and specifically see where the officer could be in violation.
Another committee member, Johnny Newman, was a basketball star at the University of Richmond and played 16 years in the NBA. He said he ran several youth camps in the 1990s in Richmond, teaching basketball and life skills. He still has a presence downtown as a businessman.
He said he wants to gain greater insight into how police officers do their jobs and hopes to see police handling sensitive situations with fairness.
“The police should not be your enemy, so we need to work with them and they need to work with us,” said Newman, who also is chair of the Henrico Police Athletic League, a program that seeks to strengthen relationships between youths and the police. “They have a job to do— I definitely want to be able to call them if I have a problem. I amon this committee to make it better for both sides.
“We’re trying to get all the answers we can so we can hold the committee accountable, hold the police accountable,” he said. “We can do a lot more by working together.”
In addition to Jacobs, Pitchford and Newman, the police listed the other committee members along with a brief description of each one. Here they are:
♦ Gwendolyn Andrews, a faith leader;
♦ Dantae Burritcher, who works in the city;
♦ KameronCorprew, a student at Virginia Union University;
♦ Naomi Davis, who works in the city;
♦ Tim Hightower, a city resident;
♦ Butch Johnson, a member of the business community;
♦ Clovia Lawrence, a member of the business community;
♦ Tia Meeks, a city resident;
♦ Tevin Moore, a city resident;
♦ Ralph Reynolds, a city resident;
♦ Lawrence Robinson, a city resident;
♦ Vilma Seymour, a member of the business community;
♦ Abin Thomas, a member of the business community;
♦ Robert Viney, a VUU student,
♦ Dwayne Whitehead, a faith leader;
♦ Marti Williams, a city resident;
♦ Tiont Williams, a member of the business community;
♦ Robert Winfree, a faith leader; and
♦ Hollie Woodruff, a city resident.