A police union put up billboards claiming the city is unsafe. Not true, the chief says

Chief Gerald Smith says a reduction in crime needs to happen, but the situation isn’t as dire as the billboards say


By Suzie Ziegler 

RICHMOND, Va. — A pair of billboards sponsored by a Virginia police union have the police chief on edge, according to WWBT. Sponsored by the Richmond Coalition of Police (RCOP), the billboards read: “The safety of the city is in jeopardy. Public safety is in a crisis due to poor pay & staffing.” 

Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith disagrees. 

“I think they just insulted my officers,” Smith told WWBT. “That billboard brings the safety of the city into question. Public safety. Police, fire, medic, you know? I think that’s a problem.” 

On Monday, Smith presented crime data to refute the billboards’ claims, according to WWBT. Smith says a reduction in crime needs to happen, but the situation isn’t as dire as the union claims. 

However, Smith concedes that the department is understaffed with more than 60 vacancies. According to WWBT, the city council has approved a study to review police salaries after RCOP noted that neighboring city police departments have higher starting salaries. 

A billboard sponsored by the Richmond Coalition of Police seen in Richmond, Virginia.
A billboard sponsored by the Richmond Coalition of Police seen in Richmond, Virginia. (Richmond Coalition of Police)

“This is about politics and positioning. It’s not about public safety,” said Mike Jones of the Richmond City Council. “If they feel there are greener pastures in Henrico or Chesterfield, so be it. We are going to do things Richmond’s way.” 

Union officials later said in a statement to WWBT that they were not criticizing Smith. 

“The billboards are not an attack on the chief of police. We want to be clear that we are not blaming the police chief for a situation that he inherited,” the statement reads in part. “We are saying that the issues raised with officers leaving and the experience pouring out of the city has impacted the rank and file of the police department.”

 

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