Richmond Times-Dispatch

Building trust

- — Pamela Stallsmith

In transparen­cy there is trust. So we were glad to learn that the Richmond Police Department (RPD) made the wise decision this past week to publicly identify the members of its new advisory panel.

In October, Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith announced the creation of the department’s External Advisory Committee. But he didn’t reveal who serves on the group, citing concerns from most members of potential harassment for cooperatin­g with police.

Wecalled for an immediate release of thenamesin­the interest of public accountabi­lity. How can a public department form a group and not disclose its membership?

As we said this past month, in a year marked by near-nightly protests this summer stemming from racial unrest and festering questions over police actions toward protesters, this is the time for openness— not opacity.

The committee has the laudable goal of creating a dialogue between city residents and police. Its structure, according to the department ,“provides a means for the police to learn about neighborho­od complaints, concerns, ideas and crime trends evolving in the community. Similarly, the committee provides a format in which the department can inform residents about current thinking and share some of the strategies of our local law enforcemen­t profession­als in the RPD.”

The department released the names of the 22 members this past week on social media after receiving their permission, the RTD’s Reed Williams reported. The list includes residents of the Richmond metro area, faith leaders, members of the business community and two Virginia Union University students.

The committee will meet monthly with members of RPD and will focus on the areas of community involvemen­t, recruitmen­t and transparen­cy.

“We’ re trying toge tall the answers we cans owe can hold the committee accountabl­e, hold the police accountabl­e ,” member Johnny Newman told Williams .“We can do a lot more by working together .”

So true. Transparen­cy is key to the committee’s success. Public business must be publicly conducted. We look forward to hearing about the group’s work and hopes it forges greater trust between the department and city residents.

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