Richmond City Council Debates Police Defunding

by James A. Bacon

Richmond City Council has taken up discussion of the demand by social-justice protesters to “defund the police.” Richmond is not Minneapolis, or Portland, or Seattle, and the three-person finance committee charged with making funding recommendations for the full council has split the baby. Instead of full defunding, the committee supports asking the Richmond Police Department (RPD), in effect, to recommend how to partially de-fund itself.

If City Council approves the committee’s recommendations, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch, RPD will identify funding in its budget for mental health, substance abuse, and social service functions that could be reallocated to other departments, and submit a report by Oct. 1 on where the money would go.

The half-measure is unlikely to satisfy militant Black Lives Matter advocates, many of whom spoke at the virtual public hearing yesterday. “We demand that funds be reallocated from the Richmond city police department’s excessively large budget, and reinvested in our community,” said Princess Blanding, sister of Marcus-David Peters, a tragic figure who was killed when threatening police during a mental health crisis in May 2018. Militants occupying the Lee Circle on Monument Ave. have renamed it in Peters’ honor.

Neither will the committee’s half measure likely satisfy the city’s new police chief Gerald Smith, who said RPD would require more money, not less, to address the systemic changes called for during recent protests. It will be difficult to extract the funding for the specific areas in the resolution, he said, because they are “intertwined in other things.”

The debate occurs against the backdrop of continued demonstrations as well as the effective takeover by activists of the Lee Circle, where the Robert E. Lee statue still stands while legal challenges to its removal work through the courts. The site is placid during the day, occupied by two or three dozen people who are mostly chatting and milling around. When I visited recently around 6 p.m., there were a couple of tents where vendors were selling trinkets, and a couple of men were shooting hoops in a portable basketball net. Families with children were walking and riding bicycles through the streets of the Fan neighborhood a block or two away.

Recent protest at Richmond Councilwoman Kim Gray’s house. Photo credit: RVAMag Instagram.

But the atmosphere changes at night, especially on Saturday nights, when large crowds continue to hold demonstrations. I have spoken to neighbors who say they have experienced spray-paint vandalism, loud noise, people defecating in their front yards, and the occasional physical assault. Neighbors are reluctant to speak out for fear of protesters mobbing their houses as they have done to Mayor Levar Stoney, and more recently, to Councilwoman Kim Gray. Gray, who represents the area around Lee Circle, has called for ending the “community project” at Lee Circle. Police often don’t respond to calls for service, and residents feel at the mercy of the mobs that periodically assemble. One resident likened the anarchy to Seattle’s notorious CHOP district where anarchists created a police no-go zone for several weeks before police finally intervened.

While the atmosphere is calmer than it was when the demonstrations were at their peak, incidents still occur. Two days ago, the RPD online incident blotter reported a vandalism incident on the 1800 block of Park Ave., about a block from Lee Circle. I presume the call referred to the graffiti shown in the photo here, which I took shortly after the report was filed. I have been told off the record of far more serious incidents, which I am trying to confirm.

The appetite in Richmond for Minneapolis-style defunding doesn’t extend much deeper than a few thousand highly motivated militants. But the demonstrators are loud, they are visible, and they don’t hesitate to intimidate those with whom they take issue. Conversely, those who oppose them are cowed by police inaction into silence. Despite widespread support on Monument Ave. for a lawsuit filed last week that accused Stoney of failing to abide by the law when he unilaterally took down several Civil War statues in the past month, only two individuals were willing to sign their names to the suit. Both are in their 90s.

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6 responses to “Richmond City Council Debates Police Defunding”

  1. WayneS Avatar

    Sic itur ad astra.

  2. NorrhsideDude Avatar

    I think Richmond is going to find their tax base defunded and every damn program with it. Might as well start with the police…
    This will be a function of commercial and residential properties, as flight occurs, having decreased value. If you can work from home the savings of leaving the city and its high property taxes ( for which you get an inverse value of services) and failing schools (sorry learn from home programs) is a no brainer. In response the city will be forced to taise taxes to pay for ever increasing social programs and the cycle will self-feed. This isn’t even taking into consideration having to retrofit all the city’s crumbling buildings to be 100% electric when the woke finally go “green” and remove the natural gas that fires the city’s boilers. I can’t wait to see the plan to replace all the fire engines alone with Tesla fire engines…. It’s going to be awesome to watch from afar! This is a city who has only built two schools in like 60 years!
    Welcome to Detroit on the James…. or North Petersburg. Damn I can’t wait for 2035 or is it 2045? It’s gonna be downright awesome!

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      NorrhsideDude: “Welcome to Detroit on the James…. or North Petersburg. Damn I can’t wait for 2035 or is it 2045? It’s gonna be downright awesome!”

      NorrhsideDude is right.

      These progressive social justice policies and politics and the destruction they now sow, even as we scribble here, are right now emptying out many of our diverse urban cities across the nation. Those fleeing are taking their wealth, their skills, their families, their jobs, their institutions and schools, and their immense critically needed social capital with them, never to return.

      Within a decade, many of these cities will be bankrupt hollowed out shells of cities, shadows of their former prosperity, hellholes filled with broken and destitute people, loss without a culture, a safety nets, jobs, or services, or a future.

      These collapsed cities will be far worse than the burnt over urban desolation that was left by the intercity riots of the late 1960s. Then the institutional fabric and wealthier areas of the cities were still intact, safe, and fully functional before, during and after those riots. NOT SO TODAY.

      Now progressive urban inner city politics and politics have for a decade been hollowing out these cities now are engaged in their wholesale destruction, tearing apart entire fabrics of many cities. All this compounded by our gross over-reaction to the Covid-19 plague. Wealth and talent are fleeing these places, full of fear and loathing. Many will not be coming back at all, or for several generations at best.

      The images of homeowners abandoned by their government, while those homeowners tried to defend themselves and homes in places like Richmond and St. Louis, will be the most consequential and long lasting images of this unfolding national disaster. And we all brought it on ourselves.

  3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    I keep thinking that the city should alter its response to the demonstrations at the Lee statue. Instead of trying to push the demonstrators out, the police should set up a perimeter. After a set time, say 8 p.m., let it be known that the police will not bother those in the circle, but anyone leaving will not be allowed to return that night. In addition, there should be heavy patrols on the neighborhood streets to deter trespassing, vandalism, etc., with arrests as needed. The demonstrators want confrontation. Don’t give it to them. Bore them to death. Also, no portable johns allowed in the circle. One other suggestion: Anyone caught vandalizing private property should be required by the courts to pay restitution–pay for repairs or cleanup.

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Mr. Dick I like your idea. This might be the antidote to settle things down on Monument Avenue. I say let them keep the tomato garden plot, maybe add some pole beans, and collard greens. I think General Lee would even approve of this.

  4. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    We moved in December. The people who bought our place have it on the market again. I will make a conscious effort to trade elsewhere.

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