A Richmond police officer who was caught on camera yelling at several students outside a middle school last week is facing disciplinary action and must undergo remedial training, interim Police Chief William Smith said Thursday.
“I share the community’s concern with that incident,” Smith said, calling the officer’s comment “inappropriate.” “His actions do not reflect the actions, the policies or the training that we have as an agency, and do not reflect the expectations that I have.”
Smith, announcing the conclusion of the department’s internal investigation into the matter, declined to specify the exact punishment the officer faces, saying it’s a personnel matter. The officer also has been removed from the neighborhood where he was patrolling when the incident occurred, the interim chief said.
Smith did not name the officer but said he is a 15-year veteran of the department. The officer is currently on leave, which had been approved before the incident.
In the video, which was posted on social media, the officer can be heard yelling from his marked police SUV to the Albert Hill Middle School students: “Wait until your asses turn 18, then it’s mine.”
Smith said Thursday that the officer’s actions were out of character and that he would have faced harsher punishment if that were not the case. He described the officer as “contrite, open and honest” and “apologetic about placing the department in poor light.” He added that the officer is willing to meet with the families and youths involved, but no such meeting has been arranged.
The officer has had one other complaint filed against him, Smith said. He could not go into detail, but characterized it as minor and not involving use of force.
Smith said the officer in the video and another had been called to the school in the Museum District for another matter, which was settled quickly, and the officers were leaving the area when the interaction with the children occurred.
Police have not released the officer’s race. The mothers of two of the students in the group said the children are black.
Mayor Levar Stoney, school officials and community activists have condemned the officer’s actions, saying they play into long-standing allegations against police of racial bias and the criminalization of blackness.
In a statement after the video was posted, Stoney said he trusted the department to “conduct a quick and thorough investigation and respond accordingly.”
“This type of behavior will not be tolerated by any employee of the city of Richmond,” the statement said. “This behavior is unacceptable. It reinforces stereotypes of our communities that are hurtful and damages the relationship between our police department and the citizens they are charged to serve.”
The Richmond branch of the NAACP said it investigated the incident and concluded that the officer should be reprimanded and take cultural sensitivity classes, as should other officers.
“We hope this will be a teachable moment, not just for this officer, and other officers, but students, as well,” branch President James J. Minor said Thursday. “We’re hoping that this doesn’t happen again.”
The interaction in the video occurred March 28. Since then, the video posted by Tenesha Calloway, a mother of one of the children in the group the officer yelled at, has been viewed more than 47,000 times.
Cameron Hilliard, an Albert Hill student who filmed the video of the officer, and her mother, Keisha Curry, discuss the incident in a reaction video posted to YouTube on Sunday. Cameron said she heard someone — not a student in her group — yell, “F--- the police,” which prompted the officer’s reaction that she filmed.
Curry said in the video that she initially brushed off the incident because after growing up in Hillside Court in South Richmond and the Highland Park neighborhood in North Side, it was how she expected police officers to act.
“I admit, I excused him for his behavior, originally,” Curry said in the video. But after she heard frustration from the community and saw how the incident was affecting her daughter, she wanted to speak out, she said. “I want to spread the message that we can be better. I just want a change — a change from what I grew up with.”