Opinion: In Richmond, the Community and the Police Are One 

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Scott Elmquist

Recent events once again have sparked intense emotions and sharp debate across the country, and have fueled the tension and distrust that exists between some members of the community and the police.

As I make my way throughout the city, I’ve been asked quite often to provide my thoughts and comments on the high-profile police-involved shootings that have occurred in other states. As I have stated previously, when it comes to any police-involved shooting, as the chief of the Richmond Police Department it would not be appropriate for me to comment on or second-guess the specific actions of officers in another department. I would hope for the same consideration for my department.

As a member of the community, a father, and someone who has experienced the pain of losing a loved one to the violent actions of another, I can say with full understanding that the loss of life is a profound tragedy. And as a law-enforcement professional for more than 29 years, the fatal attacks on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge are especially troubling and tragic.

The other question I’ve been frequently asked is what are we doing to ensure events like these never occur here in Richmond? The honest answer is that nothing is guaranteed. There is no way that we can be absolute or 100 percent certain that similar events can be avoided here, but I assure you that we are doing all we can to reduce the chances of such an incident.

We work tirelessly to train and equip our officers to handle everything from the routine to the most difficult and challenging scenarios. We’ve adapted our existing training and added new training to keep up with the requirements of contemporary policing and the expectations of the community. We provide our officers with crisis-intervention training, training in appropriate use of force, fair and impartial policing, and other courses designed to build police competencies and reduce the risk of having to use deadly force or having a deadly encounter.

But despite all of those efforts, we still understand that risk never can be completely removed.

We are keenly aware that the department’s relationship with the community is more important than ever, so our mission and goal is to continue to build safe and strong communities throughout Richmond as a collaborative endeavor from within the community. It is more than just a partnership, which is often seen as merely a transactional relationship. Instead, it is a shared venture and effort in which we are all vested.

The members of the Police Department are thoroughly immersed in the community. Our officers know the people on their beats, members at all ranks take part in regular community walks, and both civilian and sworn employees regularly volunteer at schools and in other parts of the community.

We hold community meetings to discuss difficult issues, community members take part in citizens’ academies and scenario-based training, and youth from across the city take part in camps, sports leagues and educational programs put on by officers.

I have said time and again that the police cannot do this difficult work alone. The community helps us to fight crime, solve cases and recruit new officers. The Richmond Police Department is truly a reflection of the community. We are the community and the community is us. We are one.

Richmond has long been a diverse and proud city. We are a community that is not afraid to speak its mind. Like family, we are able to acknowledge our shortcomings and failings. We demonstrate civility and compassion even as we engage in passionate debate and disagreement over important issues.

My daily prayer for the city is that we continue to face the future challenges together. It is through the strength of our shared struggle, determination and resolve that we will ensure that fear, hate and acrimony will not undermine or tear apart what we’ve built together here in Richmond.

I am proud to serve as your chief of police and I am proud to be a member of this great community. S

Alfred Durham serves as chief of the Richmond Police Department.

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.


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