Following years of mistreatment of Charlottesville police officers at the hands of their own administration and Chief, the Virginia Police Benevolent Association (VPBA) has stepped-in to mediate on behalf of beleaguered department members.
In a letter to Charlottesville Mayor, Nikuyah Walker, VPBA describes the “hurting” men and women of the Charlottesville Police Department (CPD), who are bombarded with “negative examples and opinions of police work” at both the national and local levels.
VPBA Central Virginia Chapter president, Michael Wells, notes the Chief’s lack of support for officers in performing routine duties and says that police officers have “lost faith” in department leadership.
In a related interview, Wells cited a Climate Command Survey conducted within CPD, whose results were never released—presumably because they were damning of department administration. The Schilling Show (as well as the VPBA) attempted to obtain copies of that survey via independent open records requests, but both were foiled by prohibitively expensive cost estimates provided by the department spokesman.
Due to the secrecy surrounding the original survey, VPBA commissioned a new survey reflecting the input of 65 CPD officers, which found:
- 69% of respondents do not believe the current Chief of Police has the ability to lead the department
- 82% of respondents do not believe they will receive a fair administrative process if accused of violating policy
- 84% of respondents are skeptical of the Police Citizens Review Board’s expanded powers
- 90% of respondents admitted to reducing normal policing activities due to the current political climate in the city
- 82% of respondents admitted to reducing normal policing activities due to fear of unfair targeting by CPD leadership
- 84% of respondents do not believe the Chief of Police has the department’s best interests in mind
- 84% of respondents have considered other career options as a result of pressure and scrutiny
According to the letter, Wells’ offer to meet with Chief RaShall Brackney to discuss the CPD crisis was rebuffed; a similar offer has been extended to Mayor Walker.
Recent under-reported department crises are certainly manifestations of disastrous management practices at the Charlottesville Police Department, certainly, there is much more to be told.
Download the new Charlottesville Police Survey
Download the VPBA letter to Mayor Nikuyah Walker (also copied below):
Mayor Nikuyah Walker
605 East Main Steet
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Dear Mayor Walker,
The men and women of the Charlottesville City Police Department are hurting. They are looking around the national and local landscapes and only seeing negative examples and opinions of police work amplified at the expense of the majority in this profession.
Naturally, we would look to our leadership in the department to demonstrate our good works and represent us as police officers to our community. Unfortunately, we have lost faith in the leadership of this department. We have realized that we can no longer rely on the standard procedures that provide due process. There was a time when an investigation or even interviews were a requisite first step before condemnation.
Policing is a complex and highly dynamic line of work. We are trained to face dangerous situations with the knowledge that our community knows that our work is essential to the civil society and understands that force, a last resort in any situation, is sometimes a necessary evil to enforce the law. That balance is now lost; and officers are left wondering whether they have a future in the profession they once loved.
When we have asked the Chief of Police to explain the new rules to our officers, we are met with anger or silence. In most situations, our officers are left to infer the rules in this ever-changing landscape solely on the basis of Department discipline of other officers’ Unfortunately, the intricacies of each situation are often unclear and are not explained to younger officers on the sheet. With that void, a chasm has formed between this department and its appointed leader.
Instead of leadership, we get to learn about the impact of our policing practices with no confounding factors explained. The implication is obvious and offensive to the officers who patrol the streets of Charlottesville City. A leader, especially one who has led this organization for 3 years and been a commander for decades, needs to accept ownership and bring solutions –not point fingers.
I ask each of you to examine the new life of a police officer in Charlottesville City. Each of them is sitting in their cruiser dreading the next dispatched call because that could be the one where things do not go as planned. A minor mistake, or even a completely lawful, justified action that doesn’t have good optics, can be amplified immediately through social media and prosecuted as a criminal offense with the backing of a Police Chief who will not wait for context through an investigation. Police work is not a neat and tidy job. There are always rough edges.
Please be thankful that these are not the consequences for you or your family the next time that make a mistake or misjudge a situation at work.
There is a movement in this country, and now, indeed, this city to reform our police policies, procedures, and tactics. If that is the resolve of the people of Charlottesville City, then it is their right to get the police department that they want. However, I would caution that cultural change requires leadership that is contingent on the relationship of the Chief to the department personnel. They must be willing to follow. That relationship is gone.
The Virginia Police Benevolent Association surveyed its Charlottesville City members regarding their current feeling of job security and satisfaction. Below, I present those results to you. Please note, 65 people completed the survey.
As we move forward through the process of reviewing our practices in line with our community’s expectations, I ask that you question whether you have the right Chief of Police to deliver this department through its current crisis and to repair the damage that has been caused.
If you can find time on your schedules, I would like to schedule meetings to discuss this crisis and how it is affecting the CPD. From the officer’s perspective, we can offer the true situation that is unfolding at the street level. Please let me know if you have availability to speak with us.
President, Central Virginia Chapter