A day after a white supremacist killed three people and injured at least 21 others at a protest, the city of Charlottesville has unveiled a sweeping police and public safety plan that aims to end what it calls the “war on racism.”
The plan, released Thursday, is meant to address concerns of community distrust and the perceived racial injustice of recent years.
The plan is also intended to address the ongoing debate about how to balance public safety with free speech.
In a joint statement, Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer and Police Chief Al Thomas outlined a new plan that is focused on two main areas: “Protecting the public and the city” and “Enhancing community trust.”
The police department has already made several public announcements, including a public apology to the families of the victims of last year’s violence.
In that apology, Signer called the events in Charlottesville “an ugly episode that is too common in our country.”
A spokesperson for the city said Thursday that the plan will “address the underlying problems that led to the riot and the need for community engagement, rather than targeting one group of people.”
“It’s important to recognize that in the past, there was an underlying fear of a perceived conflict between community members and the police, rather a fear of retaliation by police against community members,” Signer said in the statement.
“We recognize that there was a racial motivation behind this attack.
But we are also clear that there were many more complex factors in play than that, including the legacy of decades of racism and systemic bias that continue to be felt in our community today.”
Thomas said Thursday’s plan “provides a clear and achievable path forward.”
The Charlottesville police chief and the mayor both said that they believe there are lessons for the future.
“It is our belief that this is a time for us to engage in community engagement to address racial bias, and to address systemic problems of racial inequity in our city and nation,” Thomas said in a statement.
Charlottesville City Council President James “Bobby” Hicks said in an interview with WTVR that the “very first step” is to end the “hatred and hatred of the African American community.”
Hicks added that the city’s “war” on racism has been “a disaster for Charlottesville” and that it is important to “change the way we do things and what we do, and how we do business.”
“We have a responsibility to make sure we have a clear vision of what we want the city to be in the future,” Hicks said.
The council has approved a $1.3 million grant for the police department to improve policing in the city.
The city will also seek to reduce the number of police officers on the streets of Charlottesville by 25 percent, while also creating new positions for community relations and community engagement.
The mayor said the city will be implementing “community policing” training for its officers.
The new plan includes a plan to create an Office of Community Engagement (OCE), to help “connect with and engage with the communities that make up Charlottesville,” and will create a task force to “provide the community with guidance and resources to help them understand how we can all work together to move forward.”
In addition, the mayor said that the department will create an “internal police academy” that will train officers “to better understand the culture and values of our community, and work with police to understand and understand the challenges they face as they work in our communities.”